Stories About Getting Lost

My first year at New York University, I thought I could get back to my dorm in Gramercy from the East Village by walking. Grid system, right? Turns out my memory remembered the wrong street and the wrong avenue and I panicked when it came to deciding whether I should turn left or right and that’s how I ended up walking for an hour in one giant loop going around Astor Place.

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We met for the first time just a few hours before. She was completely covered in tiny red bug bites. I was sick to my stomach. The sound of the oars splashing and slipping through water reminded me of alligators and water moccasins slithering and sliding. I had no doubt some would near.

We had been probing the mangrove maze for what seemed like hours. All we could see was a wall of green shrubs, blue water, and sky. There had to be a way out. But how to find it? The sun was getting low in the sky, and our phones had no signal. The canoe rental place would be closing soon.

We would pursue one turn in the maze, where the water seemed to be flowing, only to end up at a dead end. We would retrace our steps, over and over, never really sure if we had been down some path before or if it was the 5th time. Finally, we came to a concrete wall. I clambered over the mangroves to the top of the barrier. Over the barrier was a steep drop, and then a massive channel used by cruise ships and tankers going to the port. Behind me was an endless stream of green and blue; the mangroves just seemed to keep going, with no obvious exit in sight.

My new found partner extended a paddle, and I walked along the barrier, precariously dragging the canoe through the mangroves. Finally we reached the edge of the maze. The only option was to dump out into the giant canal and brave the current of ocean-going ships, to paddle back towards where we came - but this time, not taking a shortcut through the maze.

As we paddled, we tried our phones to see if we had service. When we did get service, we would briefly be connected to the canoe rental place, only to have the signal cut out. We still had no idea how to get back, and it was almost dark. We kept paddling and paddling. At last a call came through and the signal didn’t slip away. The canoe rental owner helped guide us back from whence we came; we probably weren’t the first tourists lost in the wilds of Fort Lauderdale’s unending canals.

By the time we got back, night was just falling. We clambered out of the canoe, grateful to be back on land. After that ordeal, only one thing could soothe our nerves: a bottle of Patron Silver, some limes, and a hot tub.

I haven’t seen her since.

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My ex-husband and I flew into Albuquerque then drove north to visit family in Pagosa Springs, CO in 2005. We were given something like a Ford Escort and a crude map at the car rental place and off we went, with the snow already starting to fall. The snow started piling up, and somewhere west of Taos, the road we were supposed to take had a “road closed” sign. But there was nowhere to stop for directions, and without any idea of what we should do instead, we proceed through closed road. Our rental car map did not show elevation, and we soon realized we were climbing up a mountain. I was somewhere around 12-14 weeks pregnant, no cell phone service, and was starting to get pretty nervous as the road conditions were horrible and we were in such a tiny car. As he drove, I kept an eye out for houses in case we had to stop. Then we passed a house that’s entrance had a dummy hanging by a noose with a sign that said “we do things the old way,” and it seemed like a very, very long time before we passed another house. Once we reached what we believed was the peak before starting to wind down, we stopped the car to kick the built up ice off around the wheel well. The way down the mountain was slow and steady, and I have to give my ex-husband credit, he remained calm and got us back on a main road safely. To this day, that’s the closest I’ve felt like I may die.

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OMG you are me lol. My first day at CUNY I saw I was at E42nd st and said oh my school is w. 42 I probably just can walk down the street. Got above ground and realized nothing looked familiar I basically circled the block and went back into grand central lol. I also had a tendency to not to want to look like I had no clue where I was so I would get off trains turn right and just walk until I got my gps right lolol

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My mum and I (Canadians) were driving from Dunedin to Invercargill in New Zealand, we had no cell service, and the weather turned bad quickly. It went from sunshine to torrential rain and our satnav kept trying to get us to take a highway that was closed. We followed the road signs towards the detour, but missed the turn itself and made a circle. We had to stop at the only house for miles around and ask for directions. They kindly told us and we got underway to the detour that added over an hour to the whole drive. We made it to Invercargill just before nightfall, but it took much longer than expected and we were pretty relieved to be there. Believe all the stories about the South Island, folks!

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Not just for you Canadians! We’re from the antipodes and took a family holiday ‘across the ditch’ (pronounced ‘detch’ if you’re a kiwi) and also got lost on the South Island. You’d think being from mainland Australia for the most part and island Tasmania more recently, we’d have distances worked out, like migratory birds…but no. We had a small campsite in mind on the coast also between Invercargill and Dunedin and drove for hours in the dark, (pre gps, &maps prove useless between spouses) not knowing if we were even on the right road. Eventually we came to the end of a road, to a paddock, stopped and set up the tent, bit worried we were on private land as we could hear sheep(not a NZ joke) close by. Bailed the kids in and went to sleep. Woke at first light to see the sheep just on the other side of a fence only a metre away, everything else hidden in a bank of fog. Went back to tent to snuggle then after an hour got up to see the bay and amazing coastal cliffs which I drew in my sketchbook while everyone else slept. Discovered later that is the setting for the castle used in first Narnia movie. (A lot of NZ like that apparently or maybe it was our trip with 3 young kids on board)
Forget about Bermuda Triangle, the Catlin Triangle of NZ is real!

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Nova Scotia 2017
Believe it or not we were heading towards an old reconstructed fort this day-we don’t usually like these “touristy” type things, but everyone said it was a “must-see” and we didn’t want to miss it. So we headed out on a day trip of about 70 miles. It was a very windy day and on the way we couldn’t help but make lots of stops to see the wild waves along the coast. It was at one of these stops where we got out to take some photos of a lobster boat trying to pick up his traps in the big swells. It was very cold and windy but another couple stopped their car and got out. We assumed they were other visitors and also wanted to watch nature’s action. We talked for more than an hour (all of us yelling in order to be heard over the sound of the winds and crashing waves), and freezing in the unusual cold. They told us of a few places that would be interesting for photography and also told us of a local place to get lobsters. We thoroughly enjoyed the conversation and all the information and when we finally asked them where they were from, they told us “about 10 miles from here”! They told us they saw us with cameras and assumed we were tourists visiting their province and wanted to make sure we would see all the sites they thought were photographic but not known to many visitors…I was shocked but later realized the people who live in the Eastern Provinces are just that way-they live amongst beauty and want to share all they have! We continued our trip, abandoning the fort and headed for the lobster wharf…on the way we found this out of the way lighthouse and made one more stop before picking up freshly steamed lobsters that melted in our mouths! I’m so glad I didn’t listen to my Mom when she always said, “Don’t talk to strangers!”
bit.ly/stoppingtheshutter

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I’d moved to central Florida from the Midwest, partly to change my life and partly to explore swamps. It was on a hike in the Green Swamp with my wonderful dog that I got very lost.
The day was warm but completely overcast. The swamp was a mix of low palms and palmetto growing on flat ground with fingers of shallow water interspersed. We were deep in when some wild boars came after us. I’m not a good climber but I ran to a likely tree and somehow got up into it. The boars took off after my dog after realizing that they couldn’t reach me.
I sat up there for quite a while until my dog came panting back from the opposite direction he’d run from. He was fine. I waited. No boars. I slid down and started back to the car. But I had completely lost the direction. No compass. No map. (Stupid, yes.) No sun. No road sounds. No idea. I felt that panic that a lost person feels but put it back down. Then I said to the dog, “Let’s go to the car!!”
He got excited and headed off in a beeline. I followed. I had to skirt around several fingers of water, and yes there were snakes and alligators. After a long while, we came to a drainage ditch. I knew that there was such a ditch near the parking lot. The ditch was fairly deep and there were alligators. I made my way along the ditch until I came to a fallen tree. I scooted across that and above the ditch was the entry road to the parking lot, built upon a berm. The dog just swam across. My car was maybe 100 yards away.
(This same dog led me down from being trapped after a two-day snowstorm on a ridge in the Oregon Cascades.)

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Wow. ‘We do things the old way’ had me quite confused, worried, a bit muddled.
As an Albuquerquean for the past 40 years, I’ve loved exploring the Land of Enchantment and look forward to a lot more…then I thought about the communes and hippie colonies I’ve heard about in that general area, maybe it was a creepy emblem from a weed-whacked-out person who’d gone a little over the top. Thanks for the story.

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This is beautiful! I love lighthouses!

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Great story! And an amazing dog!

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Lost in Desroches (Seychelles): One of my most perfect travel days . . . No roads, only footpaths on this island. Thought I’d go for a walk. Sort of zoned out looking at giant spiders, birds, coconuts. Soon, I have no clue where I am! Well, it’s an island; if you go to the edge and circumambulate, you should get back to where you started, right? Not to worry, I have my backpack—water, camera, sunblock, a towel. Woman alone with nature. Play tag with sand crabs. Play tag with the ocean. Find red coral. Whew. Those sand vistas are deceptive. What looks like a short walk takes an hour, then another, and another. Soaked in sweat, covered with sand, exhausted, but I found my way back. It was great.

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Thank you for sharing your story, @penelopeashe! I’m going to move your story over to the main thread regarding getting lost, here:

Continuing the discussion from Stories About Getting Lost:

Whilst wandering about The Jewish Quarter in Toledo Spain we happened upon a metal shop tucked away in one of the tangle of streets. Initially we thought perhaps the shop was closed as no one was about but the shop was filled with row upon row of beautiful albeit dusty lanterns and exquisite metal pieces. As the workshop was downstairs the owners hadn’t hear us come in but did finally appear and oh what a wonderful next hour we spent learning about the history of the shop and the family who owns it. Presently it is owned by a third generation metal smith who just happens to be a woman and we were given a tour of the workshop and able to watch her work on some creations for the up coming Holy Week. She still uses some of the same tools her grandfather had fashioned and these will be passed onto her son whom is about to become 4 th generation owner and craftsman. Although our Spanish is limited and I’m sure not entirely understandable with our Canadian accent it was an experience we both fondly remember I think perhaps because it was so personal. As retired solo travellers we tend to wander off the beaten track most of the time and have some of our best experiences while ‘lost’!

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Getting lost in Toledo is a real pleasure, I love the city and got lost many times in those winding cobbled streets during the three occasions I’ve been there.

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Thanks for sharing the awesome story @eastend1! I’m going to move your post over to the main conversation about getting lost, here:

When friends from the UK visited us last summer, we spent a week in the NC mountains. One day we went to Moses Cone Memorial Park, where we decided to embark on a five-mile-round-trip hike to a 40-foot fire tower. My 89-year-old father stayed at the Moses Cone manor house to wait for the rest of us to take the hike. The trail, which was paved and well-maintained, first meandered past a cow pasture and breathtaking fields of wildflowers. About a mile in, my son, Elijah (age 17) was fatigued, so my husband, Phil, volunteered to take Elijah back to the manor house and wait with my dad for us to finish the hike. That left me and my two daughters (Cailin, age 20, and Rachel, age 23) along with our British friends Julia and Stephen, their daughter Fiona (age 18) and son Daniel (age 20).

The elevation climbed steadily but gently through the fields, but the climb got steeper once we entered the forest. The air was heavy with humidity, thunder rumbling in the distance, but there was still a fair bit of sunshine with towering masses of cumulus clouds looming in the distance. As the climb got steeper, I began to concentrate on just getting to the top, promising myself a much-needed drink of water once I made it to the fire tower.

I had entered “the zone” and was enjoying the exertion of the steady climb, and it wasn’t long before I left the rest of my party behind. It was one of those hikes that you feel like will never end, so I was elated to spot the fire after the last of the countless switchbacks leading to it. It started to rain just as I put my foot on the first step of the tower. Still, I had come this far, so a little rain wasn’t going to deter me from climbing to the top. And the views from the top of the tower didn’t disappoint. I took a good look around in every direction, taking obligatory selfies, before deciding to head back down. I made it down the tower just as the rest of my party was arriving. Being the first to arrive, I was also the first to leave. Alone. Cue the foreboding music.

Now, we all know the rules: Never hike alone; never take shortcuts; blah, blah, blah. But rules were made to be broken! And that’s when the phenomenon of “natural consequences” kicks in and bites you in the bum. You see, I was now very tired and very anxious to get back so we could end our hiking adventure and grab something to eat. I had noticed several seemingly well-trodden shortcuts off the paved trail that cut out the winding switchbacks in various places, so I started wondering how much faster I could get back than everyone else if I just took a few shortcuts. The first two shortcuts were easy; you could see the paved trail from the top of the shortcut. When I reached the third shortcut, the flora was quite a bit thicker and taller, so I could not see where the shortcut ended. I took it anyway. And it was a long, rather steep path that meandered quite a bit. The narrow path I was on t-boned into another pathway – not the paved trail – and I stood there for a few minutes looking left and right, trying to decide which way to go. The path to the left looked as though it was climbing in elevation, while the path to the left was going downward. So I chose the right path (or, rather, the wrong one, as it would turn out). I’m not sure how long I walked along that path before I realized that the path had disappeared around me and I was walking through some sparse vegetation underneath a thick canopy of hardwoods. Just like that, I was lost. Seriously lost. Very, very, very lost. I was lost on a mountain in the middle of the woods because I had done what one should never ever do, which is go hiking alone, off-trail, taking unmarked “shortcuts” in an unfamiliar place.

Yes, I tried to retrace my steps, but it was futile. The path had simply vanished. There was no evidence that another human being had ever been where I was. I reasoned with myself that, since I had been on top of the mountain, going down the mountain was the best thing to do. The denseness of the brush increased as I carefully picked my way over fallen limbs and trees, roots and rocks. I heard a fast-moving stream, and carefully maneuvered toward it, thinking that following a stream down was a good idea. I quickly abandoned that notion, however, because there were too many downed trees and other vegetation making the way impassable. I moved away from the stream and into a small clearing where there was a large dead tree. I took out my phone and found that I had enough of a signal to send a text, though I couldn’t make a phone call. I texted my daughter, who I had noticed was constantly checking her phone, and told her I was lost. I also texted my husband, who texted Julia and Stephen, and I was told to stay put and they would find me. I must tell you that staying in one place was extremely hard. I’ve heard that if you get lost in the woods, you should stay in one spot and wait for someone to find you. It makes sense, I know, but it’s contrary to your survival instincts, which tell you that you need to DO SOMETHING.

I was a little stressed by this time, imagining that I would be bound to encounter any number of unpleasant things, like ticks, snakes, bears, rabid animals, a psycho serial killer, etc. To keep myself from completely losing it, I entertained myself by taking a few selfies and shooting a couple of videos. They are somewhat entertaining; I did try to keep my sense of humor. But there’s a definite edge of anxiety in them.

While I was busy trying not to panic, Daniel – who was a Boy Guide in the UK – used geolocation to find me. When I heard him calling my name, I started shouting back, “I’m here! I’m here!” It still took a while for me to actually see him, and for him to see me, and I was surprised that he was uphill from me. It turns out that I had ended up going down the WRONG side of the mountain. In order to get back to safety, I had to go back uphill first.

Daniel led the way, and we passed through some very dense brush (how had he found me in all of that???). Julia was up on the trail whistling so we could follow the sound to find our way, and we eventually emerged from the brush onto the trail, where we were joined by Julia. We then followed the trail until we reunited with Stephen, who had sent Rachel, Cailin and Fiona back to the manor house.

We were headed back through the fields of wildflowers when I spotted my husband walking toward us in the distance. He had come to find his wayward wife, and I was so happy to see him. We eventually made it back to the manor house where my dad, Elijah, and the rest were waiting. I endured my fair share of ribbing as well as scolding (richly deserved, I think), and we all piled into our van and went to get pizza.

I posted my photos and videos on Facebook along with my story of getting lost, and I took the teasing that came with it good naturedly, but in all seriousness, getting lost was not fun. In terms of time, I was only lost for a little over an hour, but it seemed like forever. And I can’t believe how lucky I was to have a cellular signal. Had I not had a signal, the park rangers would have had to be called in, and they would have had no idea where I went off-trail. So let this be a lesson to you all. Never hike alone. Never take shortcuts. And having a Boy Guide (Boy Scout, in the US) with you is not a bad idea.


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Yes, Sparky is a hero! Do give us his real name next time you post a good story. :wink:

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Joy, what a strong woman you are to post the selfies and video…happy you were found and glad I got to read your story. Thanks for sharing

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strong textI have always been able to park my vehicle at the side of the road, any road here from north central WI to northern WI and walk into the woods without any trail and wander for hours.
I have always come out within 100’ or less of my vehicle.

I once went on a date with a woman who claimed that she coukld do the same thing so~~I thought to myself, “OK, let’s see what you’ve got”.
I parked at the side of the road and said, “Let’s go for a walk”.
Well, there is a really neat little spot about a mile into the woods where I used to go just to watch the birds & amainlas(They’re more fun than animals;)
This spot is next to a little lake with water so clear you can see the bottom it 20’.
I took her right to this spot and we sat a while to enjoy the silence and birds.
After about a 1/2 hour, I asked if she was ready to go back and she was.
I said, “Lead the way”.
Since she didn’t want to admit that she couldn’t do it, she started to walkd in the direction she thought was back out.
After a good 1/2 hour or more, I asked if we were there yet and just looked at her.
She finally had to admit that she was lost 10’ into the woods so, I turned us in the correct direction and led us to my truck at the side of the road.
Nobody taught me this and it cannot be taught to anyone else.
I am like this whether walking in the woods, when I used to snowmobile everywhere and when I hit the road in my car and just wander.

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