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Lost in the Woods


Antigua and Barbuda
 

We arrived at the hiking leader's home at 5:33 AM. She was already in her car and ready to leave. While pulling up behind her, I looked for other vehicles.


Nothing.


I parked and stepped out. Behind a metal fence, a brown German Shepherd released a warning growl and two barks. I continued walking to the driver's side of K's vehicle.


"Morning, how are you?"


"I am well. How are you?"


"I'm good."


"Is that Gabi in the front seat?"


"No, it's Vizuri. I had to bribe her to come with us, but she's here."


K laughed. We talked for about ten more minutes and then realized we hadn't left as planned.


"Maybe we should call them," she suggested.


"Yes, this is not like them to be this late."


She dialed their number on speakerphone.


"Hello? What time is it?" T's groggy voice asked.


"5:46"


"Oh, we overslept. Give us a few minutes. We will be there."


Vizuri, Emery, and Mkazo climbed out of the car and called the puppy, walking around the adult German Shepherd's yard. The adult dog growled a few more warnings from a distance but did not approach us.


I continued small talk with K. Twenty minutes later, T and L joined us, and we left for Christian Valley. After thirty minutes on paved and unpaved roads, we arrived.


None of us knew what awaited us on our first group hike of 2024. Naively, we parked our vehicles near the base and started along the path.


After about five minutes, we found a vacant conservation center. "According to my friend, the path begins behind this building," K said.


A conservation center.

We followed her around back and spotted a metal pole with a yellow ribbon tied to the top. Ten steps on the path, and we hit a dead end. That was one of many signs to turn around that we ignored.


We continued.


After 45 minutes, we found ourselves separated from the group and lost in a mountainous forest. Vizuri, Emery, and I stayed together, while K, T, L and Mkazo moved at a faster pace. Covered in hives and filled with anxiety, we were out of options.


Vizuri panicked. She cried and screamed about red bumps on her skin and a burning sensation. I gave her half a Benadryl tablet, water, and a hug to calm her down.


Somehow, Emery kept it together. Despite an emerging allergic reaction, he didn't add to the commotion during a difficult phase of last Sunday's hike. He had a few off-putting comments and complaints, but nothing unusual for my middle child.


A boy stranded in the woods.

As their father, they looked at me for strength. I also had hives but appeared relaxed as a feeling of helplessness surged through my body. Their survival depended on me.

"Come back!" After I yelled, K called my cell. I explained the situation with hives and asked that she return to help us out of our current predicament. She agreed, and I committed to meeting her halfway.


We searched for a clear path to meet the group but only found different shades of green and brown. With giant leaves and small twigs, Mother Nature had her arms around us. Fighting the embrace proved futile, so I decided to enjoy the experience.



My phone became a helpful tool for distraction and documentation. I took pictures and captured videos. You can see some images in this post; next month's vlog episode will feature video.


Taking pictures and recording videos lowered anxiety – that's one benefit of creative outlets.


"It's okay to feel scared. We also must keep moving." I acknowledged Vizuri and Emery's feelings and redirected their frustration toward progress.


About one hour after Vizuri's meltdown, we reconnected with the group. We continued to climb higher in search of a clearer route, but it never happened. We reached the top and then carved our way down.


"There's nothing Christian about this valley," I said, referring to the trail's name, Christian Valley. The adults laughed while the children kept moving along.
"They call it Christian Valley because you get to see Jesus!" said K. Again, the adults laughed while the children focused on the next patch of bushes.

We returned to the cars after four hours and thirty minutes in the Caribbean forest. On the way home, Emery and Zuri promised never to hike with me again.

Mkazo had a great time with K, T, and L. He enjoyed the adventure and offered to return this weekend to resume searching for the path. We aren't going.


A boy running in the woods.

After falling multiple times during the hike, I pulled thorns from my knees and fingers this week. This weekend is all about running on paved roads and recovery.


Healing is necessary before I can explore more of Antigua and Barbuda's unmarked trails.


Consider your options if you're lost in life's woods today. Things may feel tough, and you can't figure a way out or a solution. You can ask for help or continue along the same route alone.


Whatever you do, don't quit. You will make it through. See the example in this post and the resources available through mental health professionals in your community and online.


Subscribe to this blog, where I occasionally support human potential through stories of triumph and terror.



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