Into the Woods

Our weekly walk in the countryside yesterday turned out to be an exercise in orienteering. Our walk, Yalding to Borough Green, took us through what our book describes as “the vast Mereworth Woods,” where, at the woods’ opening, we were unclear about which entrance we were meant to take. Evidently we took the wrong one, because shortly after the tall pines enveloped us, our step-by-step directions stopped making sense. We walked in one direction for a while, concluded that it was the wrong one, went back and took a different turn, and soon realized we had lost the path completely. With all the turning around, we also lost track of where we had entered, so retracing our steps back to the lunchtime stop was out. Here is a step-by-step map of what we believe our route to be, more or less (click on the symbols to see what happened at each point):

Although we had gotten an early start, these days are short, and it was after four. When what little daylight that had been peeking through the fog started to slip away, I mentally worked through the Survival List: “Well, we have 32 ounces of water. We have fruit and granola bars. I have two pairs of extra socks in my backpack, and we’re wearing waterproof pants. My phone is getting a little bit of reception, and emergency in the UK is 999. What are the biggest animals that live in this wood? Foxes? Wolves?” Sergio’s Survival Checklist was lamenting that we had no lighter to start a fire to keep us warm during the nighttime.

Fortunately, we’ve gotten so dorky lately about our country walks that we also had flashlights and a compass. Casting aside our book’s directions, we decided to shoot for steadily northwestward, the direction of our final destination, the Borough Green train station. The only problem with that plan is that sometimes you’re heading north, and suddenly the path ends. Or you find a good, clear path that starts out going west, but before long it starts bending around to the south.

Finally we found a nice wide clear path that was heading straight northward. But then that path ended, and the only option was eastward. East! It was a nice path, though, and official-looking, so it seemed better than trying to forge our way north like a couple of trailblazers. Hearing traffic, we figured we must be getting close. When we saw a lantern, indicating civilization, we veered briefly southward to find some sort of factory where a guy was working and gave us directions out to the road.

Oh, how happy I was to see that road! Finally, we were free from the unknown dangers of the fearsome wood! Now all we had to do was walk four miles along a country road in the dark with no walkway and cars whizzing by at 50 miles an hour. What could be scary about that?

About 20 minutes into the walk, a Russian dude appeared on the other side of the road going in the opposite direction. He tried to convey to us that it would be at least six miles to our destination, and did we want to follow him back to his car and he would give us a ride to the next intersection? No thanks, we said. This guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and besides, what kind of weirdo would be walking along the side of this road?!

Luckily, 10 minutes and much roadside crawling later, who should drive up, stop his car in the road, and give us a second chance? Desperate, we took it, and for the next five minutes watched as the road went on and on and on, no sidewalk in sight, a trip that would have taken us over an hour and left us even more wet and muddy than we already were. We thanked our friend as he dropped us at the Beefeater, where we had a cup of coffee and celebrated the fact that we would be sleeping at home.

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6 Responses to “Into the Woods”

  1. Megan Says:

    Wow! I am very impressed that you could even make this interactive map and post it in your blog, and even moreso that you guys actually use a compass on your walks! Not to mention that you used it successfully to get out of that dark forest! And that you hitchhiked. I’m overwhelmed by all of the adventurousness. I love you Juli!

    • julivera Says:

      Well, don’t be too impressed with me. Sergio was the one who got us out of there with the compass, while I appointed myself Lead Panicker. 🙂

  2. AJ Burke Says:

    Oh good – a Death March for which I am NOT responsible! Finally.
    I empathize, Juli, for I just did the same thing about six weeks ago in the woods next to the law school…I thought I would never see civilization again, even though I was surrounded by Portland in every direction. It was those darn twisty paths!

    Speaking of civilization, are you beginning to spell all such words with an S in place of the Z, or are you holding tight to your American English? 😉

    Ooh – and did you check out that Mereworth Castle?? I love Google Earth…you can see the roofs and gardens of so many fabulous places…

    • julivera Says:

      I know, it’s scary, right?! Now didn’t you wish you had a compass?

      Interestingly, I’ve been adopting the British spelling and vocabulary conventions as much as I can, because I spend all day talking to patients and typing doctors’ reports, so if I do things the American way, I’m sure to confuse someone or get my report all marked up in red. So I’m all about the lifts, surnames, post, and operating theatre, as well as the goitres, centres, paediatrics and realisation!

      Wait… is that the same as Heath Tower, the tallest point in Southeast England? We did go there and pretend to be warriors…

  3. Dan Says:

    Wow, this sounds much much scarier than the time we got stranded in that muddy bog near oxford and tried to build a bridge out of tree branches.

    • julivera Says:

      I know! Both times I really felt like an adventurer… this time that feeling was enhanced by the compass hanging around my neck and the hand-chargeable headlamp affixed to my forehead. Luckily, tree branch walking sticks weren’t necessary this time.

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