Having said goodbye to friends who had spent the week with us at our vacation place, my husband and I decided to go for a drive. We knew which road to take, and which dirt road to take after that. We had a number for the dirt road we wanted to follow, and a map, and a destination.
Ah, what fools these mortals be.
We had borrowed my parents’ pick-up truck for the drive, and my husband agreed to drive, so I had the dog on my lap. I also had with me two bottles of water, two tangerines, a fourth of a bag of Juanita’s Tortilla Chips, Advil, and my hiking shoes in case we wanted to walk. There were Kleenex, toilet paper, a flashlight, some rope, and jumper cables in the truck. We were prepared.
So up a lovely forest service road we went, enjoying the beauty of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, waving to the occasional oncoming car. Up up up we went, Mt. Rainier peeking through the tree line until at last, we rounded a bend, the trees cleared, and there was beautiful Tahoma. The view stayed with us for a few more bends, until we were headed downhill and back in the forest.
Down we went, avoiding the potholes. Down we went, approaching each intersection with some caution, consulting the map (the “map” would be a better description), looking to see if any road had a number on it.
Finally, having driven downhill for a while, we came to a stop sign in the middle of nowhere. We found this hilarious, and I wish I’d taken a picture. The road ended at a T, and we scrupulously consulted the map, looking anywhere for a T in the road. Having found one (or so we thought) we realized (mistakenly) if we turned left, the road would end. So we turned right. And started going uphill. At this point, a good hour into the drive, I started congratulating myself that I had brought not only water but also provisions.
It was about 6 in the evening, and the sun was getting lower, so we knew which way west was and we were pretty sure we wanted to be heading mostly north and a little east. Happily, sometimes the road went that way. Unhappily, sometimes it didn’t. But a car would pass by now and then, so we knew we hadn’t completely left civilization. Plus I had my dog and tortilla chips.
Then we saw a sign – in the middle of the forest at intersecting dirt roads – that gave us three options. The town nearest to the house was a mere 26 miles away. So we took the right and started making our way on a one lane gravel road in the middle of the forest. We did cross a well-maintained bridge over a pretty little creek. I saw a chipmunk.
And then we were heading up again. Up. Up. Up. Up the side of a mountain. I HATE the sides of mountains – I must have died from falling off a ledge in a previous life. We were going up a pothole-filled dirt and gravel one-lane road up a mountain and all I could do is tell you which direction is west and where the tortilla chips are.
“Should we turn around and go back?” I asked my husband. I knew I could get us back – I just had no idea where forward would take us. And we were on the side of a mountain, which I HATE.
“No, we’ll get there eventually.”
“Are you okay driving?”
“Oh sure, I’m fine.”
So up we continue. We passed a few cars and a camping site, and some sort of encampment in the middle of nowhere which we landmarked as the meth-makers colony. We continued going up and the road was narrow and bumpy and I was so sure we were either going to die, falling of the edge of the mountain, or the meth-makers were going to need to rescue us. “They can have all my money and the chips, ” I said, “but they can’t have the dog.”
At least I still had my priorities straight.
Finally we reached the top of whatever Hell Mountain we were on, and there was an enormous puddle in front us, which I was sure was either a sinkhole or a ledge just waiting to break off. “Do you want to walk up ahead and see how bad it is?” I asked my brave husband. “Sure,” he said, calmly, as if he was enjoying himself. Which he totally was. Which both infuriated me and gave me courage.
I started reciting Psalm 121: I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. I felt better and in that moment, we did not die.
We went on. We made it through the puddle. We started going downhill. The one-lane dirt road eventually becomes two lanes, and then a paved road, and then we saw it. A bright yellow rectangle bearing the number 6: a beacon from heaven. We knew where we were. We had made it to the road that will take us to our driveway. We will not die in the wilderness.
Over dinner that night I did thank the little Lord Baby Jesus for seeing us safely home, and I thanked my husband for being calm and keeping his sense of adventure. That night I started the new book I had downloaded on my Kindle: Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown. I totally got the metaphor.
So here’s what I can appreciate, now that I am home-home, on flat ground with nary a mountain in sight: sometimes it’s really good to get mostly lost with someone you love. You have a deeper appreciation for their gifts and for yours and for the way you tolerate each other’s weakness. You have to be in it together. You have to have your priorities straight. You have to be able to laugh and to pray.
Mostly, though, when you get lost with someone you love, you have to trust that you will get home again, with them, and that some day, you’ll be glad you had the adventure.