On day five of our six day November expedition, at around 9:25 a.m., we started our solo compass hikes. The first students that set out were successful, some of them completing the one-hour course in under forty-five minutes. Three of us had a slightly less successful experience.
Larissa set out at about 10:25 a.m., followed by Hailey fifteen minutes later. Zoie was next, followed by Sonja at about 11:00 a.m. We all made it to the top of the first hill, but Larissa, Zoie, and Sonja all missed the first marker with the new compass heading. Despite having been told not to continue on the original compass heading of 350 degrees once we reached the top of the first hill, we three (Larissa, Zoie, and Sonja) made our first mistake, and did not stop. We were hiking separately, but talking about it later we discovered that all three of us hesitated at the top of that first hill, but then all decided to keep going on the 350 degree heading.
That took us right off the edge of a very steep downhill, and then up, and then down again over several hills which were not on the course. Sonja became concerned about where she was, questioning if she was still on course, and, after stopping several times, she finally decided to blow her whistle only to find that she didn’t have it. Wondering what she was going to do without a whistle, she checked what she had with her in her daypack, and came across her matches, which she used to start a fire in hopes that someone would see the smoke and would find her.
In the meantime, Zoie and Larissa continued on, until they finally encountered one another and continued uphill a little way, until Zoie got her foot caught in a root. They stopped and talked about how long they had been on the route, and decided they were lost. They started blowing whistle blasts at about 2:00 p.m., and then continued on in the direction they had been going. They stopped and left a note in case Mr. Mike happened to be coming that way. They were convinced that no one would find them, however, especially considered how long they had been walking and how far down the mountain they had gone. So, they made a plan: to continue following the original compass heading of 350 degrees down the hill, until they found another trail, and follow that the rest of the way down. At about 3:20 p.m. they began their descent down the rest of the mountain, moving quickly because they knew the sun was going down. They came across a trail and followed it further down, eventually seeing white dots in the distance which they assumed were buildings or houses. They blew their whistles, and in return they heard dogs barking. If there are dogs, they thought to themselves, there must be people, so they continued on until they came across a road and a barn.
While Zoie and Larissa were going down the mountain, Sonja added a bunch of wet wood to her fire, sending a great deal of smoke up into the air, just as an instructor, also following the compass heading of 350 degrees, was nearing the spot she had stopped. With Sonja located, Mr. Mike continued searching for Larissa and Zoie, making contact with the school by phone. Zoie and Larissa, in the meantime, encountered a gentleman named John, who allowed them to use his phone. Because they didn’t have the school’s phone number with them, Zoie called her Mom in Washington, who called Ms. Patricia at the school, and then Ms. Patricia called Zoie back and got the location from John, making a plan to meet up in Damascus, VA. John’s wife gave Larissa and Zoie a ride to where Mr. Kevin was waiting.
Back at camp, Larissa’s brother Michael was worried about her, so he and his tent partner Levi went out searching. They were both relieved when Ms. Kelsey told them that Larissa and Zoie were safe, and would be back in camp the next morning.
The next morning Ms. Margaret drove Larissa and Zoie back to camp, and we all completed the expedition together.
As I waited for someone to call or whistle to let me know they had found me, I almost wished no one would find me. It was nice just to be in the sunlight, quiet and peaceful, hearing the birds and feeling the wind softly blowing against my face. I watched the flames from my fire, and the smoke rising up, and then the beautiful scenery of the mountains. Even though I was alone, and afraid that I was the only one who had gotten lost, I was calm and filled with joy. I told myself that I didn’t need to worry about anything because there was nothing else to think about or do until someone found me.