This Is Not The End
So many trees with their branches weaving together until they become so thick, and so dense that I can not see the sky. I stop every few hundred feet to crouch to the ground and study the trail I am following, to make sure that there still is a trail to be followed this far out. The markers faded from sight hours ago, I was warned that once I reached a certain point there would no longer be visible guidelines for amateur hikers. The person working the desk at the last ranger station laughed at me, saying that only professionals could make it as far as I was planning. “I expect you’ll be back here ‘tail between your legs by nightfall”, that was the last thing another person said to me before I headed out here. I did not want to prove anything to anyone, maybe to myself but that was not a conscious thing. I really did just believe that this would not be so hard, and without much of a surprise, I was wrong.
Suddenly the clouds are not clouds anymore, they are a cliff edge, and the rain is a river coursing over the edge to create a waterfall surrounding me. The weight of my gear has doubled, if I could barely carry it before then now I am practically dragging it behind me. I continue to push myself ahead hoping this will get easier, which is the exact moment I slipped down the pit. My bag hooked itself on a root at the top, I basically slid out of the straps (I knew the chest strap existed for a reason) and dropped down at thirty feet or so.
My ankle is broken, there is a hideous gash on my arm, and my gear rests safely at the top of this pit. I was foolish, frustrated, anyone could have missed such an obvious danger in my state. That is what I keep thinking to myself, but it does not do me any good. I am still down here with the rain pouring down the sides, creating more mud to pool at my ankles. Oddly the idea of drowning in mud is the least of my concerns, at this rate I will be dead of hypothermia soon enough anyway.
I need to stay awake, to get myself back out and to my gear where I can mend my wounds and get clean water. However my eyes have other dreams, they feel so heavy and it would be so easy to let them rest just for a moment. I snap them open and summon all my strength to climb out of the pit, foot by foot I work my way up. I am back on the trail, the sun is shining and the trees have cleared a path for me. The ground feels much softer here and my pack feels practically empty, I knew this would be easy. I have a burst of energy and start running ahead, leaping over fallen trees and thickets faster than I have ever moved before. I only slow down as I reach a small river, luckily there is a path of stones leading across is only feet away from me. As I cross the river I find a small cabin sitting at the base of the river, and something feels wrong. The trees are shifting around me, the cabin fades away as I run towards the door. I wake with a gasp, “Still here…I’m still here..”.
It has been several hours now, I can not tell how many exactly at this point, it would not matter if I could really. There is only one thing I can focus on, that I keep repeating to myself, “There is a way out, you will live. You have to live. This is not the end. This can not be the end.”