In Our Own Backyard...He's the man who never returnedIt started out as a weekend junket up the North Shore in search of snow. We had heard the areas around Silver Bay, Finland and parts north were getting snow, and my husband Ken and I wanted to get in a little cross country skiing.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
It started out as a weekend junket up the North Shore in search of snow. We had heard the areas around Silver Bay, Finland and parts north were getting snow, and my husband Ken and I wanted to get in a little cross country skiing.
Our first stop was a community ski trail just outside of Silver Bay, where the fresh snow proved to be soft and deep, and the skiing was excellent. We thought it a bit strange that there wasn’t a map at the trailhead, but we’d skied there a couple of years ago and figured we could find our way around.
The day was fine and fair, and the sun was still high in the sky as we departed. We schussed along, enjoying the scenic wilderness, and as we passed several spur trails – all of them unmarked – we decided to keep going. The trail kept heading further and further downward, however, and we had no way of knowing if we were on a loop that would eventually take us back to the parking lot, or if we’d have to retrace our steps and climb up all the hills that we’d just descended.
After an hour or so, the trail still didn’t seem to be circling back around, and to make matters worse we’d come to a Y and had no real idea which way to go.
“It seems to me we got in this same predicament last time we came here,” I reminded Ken helpfully, “except I have no idea which way we went in order to circle back around!”
He gave me “the look” that said he knew what he was doing – he simply had to get his bearings first.
“Say, does this remind you of that old song called ‘The MTA’ by the Kingston Trio?” I asked, “– about the guy who didn’t have enough money to pay the exit fare to get off the subway so he had to keep riding around and around the city of Boston?”
And then, somewhat to his chagrin I’m sure, I broke into song.
“Oh he never returned,
No he never returned and his fate is still unlearned.
He will ride forever ’neath the streets of Boston
He’s the man who never returned!”
Ken laughed along with me – but we ended up turning around and retracing our tracks back to the parking lot....
A day later we were hiking in Cascade State Park, and I’ll be darned if it didn’t happen again. We’d followed a familiar series of trails leading toward Lookout Mountain, and after an hour or so we decided to head back to the car. We were hiking along side-by-side, visiting as we went, when Ken suddenly realized that we were no longer seeing our footprints in the snow from the direction we came. We figured we must have missed the turnoff to the feeder trail that would take us back to the parking lot. But since neither of us had been paying a lot of attention, we weren’t sure just how far back it was.
“Oh he never returned,
No he never returned…
And his fate is still unlearned….” I sang out with a grin on my face.
Ken just rolled his eyes.
Later that day we went skiing in the Bally Creek trail system outside of Grand Marais. It proved to be a maze of intersecting trails that had not yet been groomed, most of which had not been skied by anyone else ahead of us that day so the snow was without fresh tracks. We enjoyed the first half hour or so before we came to the confluence of two other trails and tried to decide which way to go. Thankfully, this time there was a map that had a big, red marker that read, “You Are Here.” And though the directions didn’t seem quite right to us, we decided to trust the map and continue on.
It was a half hour later, when we got to the next juncture in the trail, that we ended up scratching our heads. Once again, there was a trail map, and once again, it had a big, red marker that read, “You Are Here” – in exactly the same spot as on the previous map! It turned out that some hapless trail volunteer must have copied the maps on the copy machine and then posted them along the trail – disregarding the fact that the red markers were all at exactly the same spot!
Though we weren’t overly concerned, we had no real idea just where we were headed, whether the trail we were on would loop back to the trail head – or take us somewhere off into the distant wilderness in exactly the opposite direction.
I looked at Ken, Ken looked at me – and this time, I only hummed.