Friday, September 09, 2005

Sense of Direction

It serves me right. I shouldn't have written that smug post about how males have this innate sense of direction whereas females tend to navigate by using landmarks...

I went out for a 9 mile run. It was along a trail I had run before. Easy to find as it followed a stream through woods for just over 3 miles. Every mile or so it crossed a road but I never paid any attention to the names of those roads. Then the path got narrower and less well marked and worked its way up a hill into deeper words. When I figured I had run about 4 and 1/2 miles I turned round and started heading back down the hill.

After a while I began to wonder if I was on the same trail. It just felt a bit wrong. But I had my male's sense of direction so I figured if I just kept heading north I would be fine. Bad idea!

Now I knew I was on the wrong trail. By now I should be getting on a wider trail and approaching the road. Hmm. Feels like I must be east of the right trail. So at the next fork I take a left and start working back west. Yikes I've gone a long way. And what is this stream doing running east-west? Definitely not the stream I was following before. And here are some houses. There were no houses near the correct trail. For a while I think of retracing my steps to get back on the right trail. But I realize that the trails are so faint that I'd probably get even more lost.

I finally find a trail leading out of the wood between houses and emerge on a road. A very unfamiliar road. Which way to go? Downhill seems like a good idea. It's almost noon and the sun is high and it's over 80 degrees. My water bottle is almost empty. I head down the road.

And now a junction. Left or right? Now my starting point is definitely 4 or 5 miles north of here. So north is good. But the roads are not running north-south. I feel I am east of where I should be but I'm not sure. The county town is somewhere over to the northeast maybe 5 miles away. If I head north and east I will eventually get somewhere I can recognize. Wild country be to the south and west.

So I zigzag through the country roads. I see the name of the township I am in. Yikes -- that is miles away from where I want to be. But maybe it stretches a long way? I pass huge mansions big enough to shelter several dozen families of hurricane survivors. Long driveways. Acres of lawns. A sign that says "Gate Opens Outwards". Big money around here. Where the hell am I? I could be running round in circles. I might be running for hours. This was supposed to be a marathon training run -- not an actual marathon.

After zigzagging around the roads for 30 or 40 minutes I see a sign that indicates pedestrians crossing ahead. Ahah. It's my original track. I had deviated to the west not the east. I pick up the track and breathe a sigh of relief. As I run the remaining few miles I only have a slight nagging doubt that I'm actually heading the wrong way down the track.

Of course a woman would never have made that original mistake. Especially my wife who knows trees. She would have remembered her way via landmarks. "We should bear left at that Gray Oak with the Poison Ivy. Need to keep to the right off that Mountain Laurel under the American Elm." Or even more obviously, "Darling - the path we came up the hill had blue blazes on the trees. Why are we on a trail with white blazes now?"

I admit it. Women are better at some things. They even ask for directions.

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