I was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico and was raised on a 1000-acre ranch 100 miles north of there. We lived just one mile from the Continental Divide, the mountains that divide the rainfall into western bound streams or eastern bound streams. Often, we would see rain on the other side of the Divide that never made it over to our side. Once, I even climbed the Divide with my brothers.
A number of years ago, my family decided to go back to New Mexico and try to revisit sites we recalled from childhood. We rented a hostel for a week. It had two long bunkhouse rooms for the children and private rooms for the adults. The cousins entertained us every night with Terrace Entertainment-skits, jokes, and songs that they put together. During the day, we took excursions to local places.
It was June 17th, when we decided to take a hike in the mountains. The hike began at about 10,000 feet elevation and was planned for a four hour journey. Hiking were myself, my husband, my brother, and three kids. It started very well with an easy trail to a placid lake, where we halted and ate lunch. We skipped rocks and played because there was time. Finally, we chose to move on.
Moss hanging from trees decorated the way. Sometimes, we found a muddy spot, where someone had laid some short logs creating a dry walk. Soon, however, the trail led through a stand of pines. June 17th! Beneath the pines there was still snow, at the least 8-10 inches deep. In places, my boot slid in so deep that slushy snow fell in the tops of the boots.
It didn't take us long to realize that something was wrong. We ought to have been near the end of the walk. Instead, we came to a trail sign that baffled us. Apparently, the winter had been harsh and had knocked down trail signs. We tried hold up the marker and figure out which way was "down, from the mountain." But it absolutely was impossible to know. By now, the sky had turned very cloudy.
We traipsed through more alpine meadows, full of bright yellow flowers, and up and over ridges. But we'd not a clue where to go. Suddenly-June 17th-it started to hail on us! We had dressed for hiking in only shorts and T-shirts. I did have a sweater with me, but my ten yr old daughter claimed it. Among everyone there, only Dwight, my hubby, had thought to bring a tiny pack with emergency supplies. He removed his red plastic poncho so we all huddled under the single poncho. Within a few minutes, hailstones the size of grapes had covered the ground with a white blanket.
I never believed that it was possible, but we could not tell directions in the least. The cloud cover diffused the light so much that you couldn't tell exactly where the sun was. When the hail quit, we struggled onward, hoping that the trail we were following would sooner or later lead down.
We passed through far more meadows where the ground was so wet that you could stand on it and bounce, like it was a sponge. Water ways ran through here. They were about one or two feet wide, but if we thrust a stick into them, we discovered they were probably 8-10 feet deep. They were small enough to step across easily, but deep enough in places to drown you in the event you misstepped.
It hailed again, and just as before, we huddled underneath the red plastic poncho, trying to make sure everyone stayed fairly dry and didn't get hit with the hailstones.
My daughter and her cousin were each sure that we would die at the top of this mountain. I knew we'd leave the mountain, however , I was afraid we would have to spend the night.
Now-if you've done much backpacking, you've already been asking yourself the following. There are actually two things we should have used that could have made it easier for us at this point.
Can you imagine what those two things might be?
A map. My brother owned a map. He left it in his van. A compass. We owned a compass, however had left it home in Arkansas.
How could we Find our way home? How do we Find our way?
It's a question that I found fascinating and was partly the inspiration for writing THE
WAYFINDER. In my story, "wayfinding" is a extraordinary skill you either have or don't
possess. If you do have the skill, then it can be developed and trained till the Finder is equipped to find anything. To quote from my book: "The Finder's Guild was expert at Finding anything and everything: lost rings, the prettiest blue dress in the market, a lost child, the way home."
I didn't have a Wayfinder on that June 17th. But I'll never be with out one ever again!