Friday, November 23, 2018

Maryland Rocks: Part 10- The Highway To Hell

In this connected world we live in, it seems that backpacking is a step away from it all, a chance to be alone in the woods, an opportunity to detach yourself from the constant attention-seeking people and computer screens...but it's not really like that. Take for example, the often-used cellphone application "Guthook". It is basically an enhanced map of trails in the USA, and if you are willing to spend some extra money, you get a lot more, like details for finding water and shelters. In addition, backpackers can leave notes in the app, telling you where it's a great place to stay, where somebody saw a bear, etc. People use their trailnames and leave messages like the ones I was looking at right now. We were coming up to the crossing of Route 9 in northern Virginia. By now, you should not be surprised that hikers have to cross highways once in a while, and occasionally, it is useful, especially if there is a convenience store loaded with junkfood near that crossing. In this particular case, the notes were telling me to beware that this road was extremely dangerous and by no means should anybody ever cross it wearing earphones (many solo hikers listen to music, audio books, or podcasts while hiking). I laughed to myself, thinking these guys have been in the woods too long, or they've never been to I-drive in Florida. In Florida, you have a much better chance of getting whacked by a car than any other means of dying, unless you happen to be spending all of your time surfing at New Symrna Inlet with the sharks...even there, your chances of dying in a auto accident on the way home is more likely than a shark finding your femoral artery. we came up on this sleepy two-lane blacktop in the middle of nowhere...I realized they weren't kidding. It was a blind corner that was apparently at the bottom of a long incline. Add to that little bit of difficulty, the masses of important government employees, contractors, lobbyists, and everybody else that was in a hurry to get home from the train station to their McMansion in the country and you had the perfect pedestrian-killer storm.
We stood there easily for 10 minutes in the dying sunlight, hoping for a lull. All we had to do was run full speed for 20 yards with a full pack on and we'd be safely on the other side. I was pulling my pack off when Paul finally saw somebody slowing down for a minute to check a text message on their phone and he ran for it...I saw another almost as good opportunity right after that guy whizzed by, and gave it everything I had...nobody in sight and I almost had my pack up on my shoulder when a truck came flying up about 90 mph, horn blaring nonstop the whole time. I think he shouted some encouragement out to me concerning my hike, but I just waved back in thanks that he let one more hiker live this day...

By the way, my day-gig is making computer dashboards, the kind that put statistics together and help you determine where you are missing opportunities to make money...or where you are losing it...So I find it very interesting when I read charts that are basically risk assessments. People that die while backpacking is one. You know, fell off a cliff, got lost and starved to death, mauled by a bear. We pretty much worry about all of the things that could happen while hiking, but I've never seen a statistic about how many backpackers get hit by cars while crossing the road on a trail. I have a funny feeling that I would have a better chance of sleeping every night with candy bars in my pockets on the trail than I would have crossing Route 9 again.

The good news was, we survived! We made it across and lived to tell about it. I was feeling really good, until Paul got my attention and pointed down the road. There was a convenience store a little less than a mile down the road. Hot food, good bathroom, and for Paul, a real fountain soda, was not even a 15 minute walk away. There was only one was back on the other side of the road...  

No comments:

Post a Comment