This does not surprise me. This is the sort of thing that comes of venturing into the forest without a plan, a map, a first-aid kit or a 20-pound bag of rice.
Considering the list of all possible outcomes, having to retrace our hike to get back to the car is about the best we could hope for.
I do not say I told you so. Out loud.
Our scoutmaster does not put much stock in things like "plans," "maps" or bags of rice. He relies on manly intuition and his sense that things rarely go wrong, and when they do, are rarely fatal.
This is known as the I haven't killed anyone yet school of risk assessment.
And so we set out for a day of exploring the woods with little more than the scoutmaster's assumptions about where the trail will lead. We are accompanied by two sixth grade girls who alternate between running too far ahead and lagging too far behind. They laugh, they hide, they send text messages back to civilization.
The trail winds through thick woods in autumn colors and is crisscrossed by horse paths. A couple of deer amble past. It is a nice walk. But after a few miles we pick up our pace, eager to reach
a Starbucks what we believe is the end of our hike. Except it's a highway. A forest preserve worker at the nature center across the road gives us a map and tells us to head back the way we came.
We head back the way we came. I'll be honest; it's not as pretty on the way back. There are an awful lot of dead leaves. Where did all this horse poop come from? I make a prediction: "At some point, the scoutmaster is going to announce that he has discovered a shortcut," I tell the girls. "We must not, under any circumstances, take the shortcut."
The girls look at me but all they hear is shortcut.
"Yay!" they say. "A shorcut!"
We are not even 20 minutes back into the wild when the scoutmaster pulls out the map and brings us to a halt at a fork in the trail. An unmarked path branches to our left.
"I think this will take us back to the parking lot," he says. "We won't have to go all the way around."
"Yay!" sing the girls. "A shortcut!"
"No," I say. "There are no trail markers." But no one can hear me. They are already skipping down the unmarked path.
There is nothing to do but follow. I know how this is going to end. "It is going to be a long walk back," I say. The scoutmaster knows too. "Trust me," he says. Again? I think.
But we are both wrong about what we will find at the end of the trail. Because the right answer, as it turns out, is a bride on a Harley. Also, the parking lot.