Our family has a tradition going back close to fifteen years. In the fall right around the end of October near a certain pagan holiday which we don’t celebrate, we all go on a “harvest hike”, to celebrate all the beauty and glory of God in nature.
Last year our typical three mile tour of the wilderness took and unsuspecting twist. We got lost on the Susquehannock Trail system. We left our car at the ranger station on top of Denton Hill at approximately 4:00 p.m. Our daughter Janette had rendezvoused with us on her way home from college.
I had obtained a map from the ranger station. I chose what I believed to be a suitable trail that would go several miles into the woods and loop back to the parking lot. The trees seemed to be well marked and the trail was warn enough that I was sure we were on the right path.
After about three hours, the sun was going down and the end of the trail was nowhere in sight. The tree markers led to a section of ATV trail. After a short time on the narrow roadway the signs beckoned us back into the woods. With darkness falling and no lights other than our cell phones (which had no signal) we decided to continue on the ATV trail. We kept moving down into the valleys hoping to come to civilization. We sent text messages to family and friends telling of our predicaments in hopes they would contact 911 and attempt a rescue.
Fortunately, it was unseasonably warm for October but cool enough that we had to walk constantly to keep warm.
If you send text messages to family make sure they know how to access it. Our family received the text but no one knew how to read it.
I attempted to keep spirits up by stimulating conversation. No one seemed to appreciate my thoughts on how the game commission is reintroducing mountain lions into Pennsylvania to reduce the deer herd or whether relocating nuisance bears into uninhabited areas is effective.
After hours of walking everyone was getting too tired to continue. I decided that if we were going to stop for the night it would be at the top of a hill, where possibly we would have enough phone signal for our text messages to send.
We found a side trail off the ATV road that went up the hillside so we followed it. About half way up I thought I heard a noise. I saw a light reflect off the overcast sky, and then the sound of a car. We all but ran up the trail until we encountered a gate and then a two lane road.
The road was deserted, our text messages had sent but no one had enough signal to make a voice call. We waited on the road not knowing which direction to go. No cars in sight, no sound or lights from houses or a town. We had not waited all that long when the lights of a car appeared. I stood in the center of the roadway waving an open cell phone determined to stop whoever it was. They stopped, a huge pickup with extended cab and four people in it. When they told us we were on route 44 near Cherry Springs State Park we said no way. We told them we had walked from Denton Hill they said the same. They were happy to take us to our cars and we piled into the back. Traveling at 50 mph I would say it took a good 15 minutes by road to get back to the cars. I do not know the route we traveled but we found the road at 10:00 pm and had walked for the better part of those six hours.
If you go on the Susquehannock Trail be advised the rangers’ maps are no good. Their website even lists a private group as a source of accurate maps.
Susquehannock Trail Club
PO Box 643
Coudersport, PA 16915
We went on the hike with little or no supplies. We were fortunate to have extremely good weather and plenty of water with us. We carried no lights, matches, or extra clothing. I had a gps but the batteries were dead. I now keep all these things and more in my pack with me at all times. We learned nobody plans on getting lost.