Monday, February 11, 2019

Lost in a Snowstorm, Umpqua National Forest, Oregon

Ethan was struggling in the hard driving snow, a blizzard. The storm had sprung up out of the northwest and was obliterating his sight, snow stinging his face. Planning an all-day hike on the Boulder Creek Trail in Umpqua National Forest, Ethan had hiked five miles to the halfway point where he rested, had his sandwich and chips. The storm had roared in unexpectedly and he had cut short his hike, working his way back to the trail-head parking lot where he had left his SUV. 
       The wind was whipping the snow and he wrapped his scarf around his face. As he peered ahead he saw a Douglas Fir had crashed across the narrow trail, a casualty of the fierce wind. The fallen evergreen blocked his path, but he worked to his left and found the jagged stump, seeing he could make his way over the break at the base of the tree. As he stepped over the fallen tree, Ethan saw a sudden flash of light which stunned him. He raised his hand to his face feeling dizzy, then lost his balance and toppled over, collapsing in the fresh snow.
        When Ethan recovered, he sat up slowly and noted the wind had quieted. Instead there was a soft snowfall of large flakes, but the blizzard seemed to have died. He moved slowly in the deep snow, reaching out to a branch of the fallen tree. What happened? There was that flash of light, maybe a lightning strike at Mount Thielsen, which was known as a lightning rod of the Cascades. Slowly standing up and looking around, Ethan wondered at the weather break on this side of the Douglas Fir. He smiled at his good fortune, not having been seriously worried, but it had been a struggle in the blizzard and he had at least four miles back to the parking area.
        Dusting himself off, he started down the trail in the falling snow. After twenty minutes, he stopped and sipped his water. Off to his left he saw someone and Ethan gaped as he focused on a figure through the pines on a parallel trail who appeared to clothed in bearskins with a bow across his chest. Ethan waved at him, thinking this must be a Cow Creek Indian. But this warrior looked to be from another time. To his amazement the man took an arrow from the quiver on his back and fixed the arrow in the large bow, pulling back the bowstring and aiming at him. In the quiet he heard the twang of the bow and Ethan instinctively ducked behind the Ponderosa Pine he was leaning against. With a solid "thunk" the arrow hit the tree he was hiding behind.
        Letting out a breath, Ethan didn't hesitate, but stayed low and ran through the snow that was shin deep. As he struggled, he took out his cell to call 911, but there was no signal. That was odd as he had checked his phone before, using the compass to navigate and being sure he had a signal. Coming in on the trail, there had been a strong signal, but now there was nothing. Perhaps the blizzard had caused an outage.
        Working his way through the snow, Ethan saw the sharp turn west, leading to the parking lot. He had another 100 yards or so down a sharp slope and then he should find the refuge of his SUV where he could warm his chilled body.
      Slipping and sliding down the slope Ethan was amazed not to find the parking lot and his vehicle, but instead a meadow, an empty meadow. At the trail head head there should be a map board and a simple rest room. But they were gone.
        What was going on?
         He walked into the middle of the meadow, wondering how he had gone off route. Where had he taken the wrong trail? Taking out his compass he oriented himself, south was to the left and he was facing west, as he should be.
          As Ethan stomped his cold feet in frustration, he caught a movement out of the corner of his eye. He turned and saw the Cow Creek Indian, noticing the long, black hair cascading down the bear skin. Was it a woman? If so, his adversary had an arrow set in her bow and the string was pulled back. She was aiming at him. But why, and exactly where was he? Had he taken an errant turn in time and space when he climbed over the fallen Douglas Fir? In a panic, Ethan turned to head back to the safety of the pines. But he was too late.