Two-thousand calories worth of snacks. Check. Five bottles of water. Check. Enough bug spray to kill an entire continent of mosquitos. Check. We are now ready to spend the day hiking in Hither Hills, one of the biggest state parks on Long Island.
At 8:30 AM it already feels like the forecasted 92 degrees. Constant warnings about the high tick and mosquito infestation in the park this summer are ignored as we dash from the house to car, immediately blasting the AC. When Amanda and I put our minds to something, we can be quite determined.
I turn up the radio as we drive out East, wondering if the quaint towns of Bridgehampton and Amagansett enjoy listening to DJ Tiesto as much as I do. Nothing like techno music mixed with sunshine to really get you motivated.
Two hours later and we finally arrive at our destination. Antsy from the long drive and anxious to hit the trails, Amanda and I waste no time jumping out of the car and rushing to the information booth to grab maps. As we studying them for a bit, however, we realize that neither of us have any clue where we are.
“How exactly do we get to the hiking trails?” I asked the parking attendant on duty.
“I’m not sure. That’s a question for our environmental specialist,” she replied.
Since we are not asking about bird species or where the rose shrubs are located, I think this is an odd answer. “Maybe it’s her first day,” I think, grabbing a second map just in case.
“I think I know where to go,” says Amanda, which is good because I am really only pretending to read this giant picture that might as well be written in an unknown language.
We walk along Route 27, attempting to follow the direction of the un-detailed map that will be our tour guide for the day.
“Be careful of ticks and poison ivy!” shouts a man with long, wavy hair as he drives by.
“Yea, we’ve heard,” we reply in unison.
Venturing into the woods, I am able to breath in the smell of nature. The tangy scent of the Oak trees, the sweet smell of the Pine, and the essence of romance as we pass a rose bush. My aromatic experience is quickly ruined, however, as a gang of mosquitos take over my body and begin to feast. Amanda and I quickly take our maps and begin thrashing wildly, trying to fight the bugs with relentless abandon. It is no use, however, as these mosquitos are ravenous. Deciding we need to go with our last resort, we begin sprinting like Olympic track stars out of the woods.
“I think we need to make our own trails,” Amanda comments, still smacking her skin trying to get off the last of the mosquitos.
I nod in agreement. If we had any chance of surviving this hike without being admitted to the hospital we would not be venturing into the woods.
And so we set off along the train tracks, passing by the forest but not quite going inside. We go up hills, passing birds nests and inch worm webs, seeing tiny speckled flowers and tall trees.
“Where are we?” I ask Amanda, noticing on my pedometer that we have gone about seven miles.
As she glances at the map, I notice a bewildered expression come over Amanda’s face. “We’re off the map,” she replies, squinting while attempting to decipher our location.
I sigh. In 92 degree heat, this could not be a good thing. However, since we have driven two hours to get here, I was not turning back. “Let’s just keep walking.”
We continue on for miles until we pass the forest and end up in a nearby town. A car driving by rolls down it’s window. “Do you know where Navy Beach is?” a man with dark hair wearing a yellow t-shirt asks.
“We’re just as lost as you,” I reply.
At this point I am a sweaty mess, my ribbed tank top covered in mosquito blood and salty perspiration. I would definitely be throwing it out after the hike. I scramble around in my backpack to try to find my sunglasses but unfortunately, the myriad water bottles in the pack have crushed them into three pieces. Attempting to use my phone as a compass, I feel defeated as I realize my Droid has died while trying to find service in the woods.
Deja vu comes over me as I realize something similar to this has happened to me before. I had been in Nice, France, taking a walk after checking into my hostel to clear my mind when Air Berlin lost my luggage. The only things I had at the time were the clothes on my back and my money and ID. I had found a local beach and walked along the shore, trying to calm my angry nerves and enjoy my trip through Europe. I could smell the salty breeze mixing with chocolate and fruit as if Crepes were being made nearby.
As the sun began to set on the French Riviera, I decided to venture back to the my hostel. I was not exactly sure where I was, but was sure I could find it. At this point. I had been backpacking Europe by myself for over a month and had become a pro at navigating the foreign streets. I began walking east, which was the direction I thought I had come from. But what were these street names? And did I pass this palace before?
I found a bus station and waited over an hour for some kind of public transportation to pick me up, but to avail. Nobody seemed to speak English, and those who did had no idea where Villa Saint Exupery hostel was located. By now it was almost pitch black out. I continued walking, mapless and running out of hope.
After walking for what felt like 300 miles, I came to a giant hill. As I began to walk up its steep, painful climb, I realized that I was legitimately lost. Not misplaced, but completely lost. Was I even still in Nice? I would have hailed a taxi or even hitch-hiked had any cars come my way, but I was somehow in the middle of nowhere. Just me, the French Riviera, and a giant hill that never ended. I began to cry.
I sat on the side of the road, defeated. I would sleep here, and if anything bad happened to me in the middle of the night I didn’t care. I was done walking and soiling my only t-shirt that I owned at the moment. I was a sweaty mess, and wanted nothing more but to sleep.
As if by some miracle, a young girl, about seventeen probably, appeared like an angel.
“Do you know where Villa Saint Exupery is?” I asked, without much hope that she would have even heard of it.
The girl began laughing hysterically. “Look behind you,” she replied, pointing the hostel that I had been trying to find for the last four hours. “You’ve been sitting in front of it.”
I shook my head and smiled. Things always worked out in the end.
Looking at Amanda as we continue our hike, huffing and puffing our way around Montauk, I became confident. “We won’t be lost for long,” I assure her. “Things always work out in the end.”