So, Melissa and I had been easily following the trail. The blue blazes were easy to spot and the first time the trail followed along a road, there were blue blazes along the side of the road and there were little blue arrows painted on the road.
There was a brief moment along this stretch, that I started to feel a little dazed. But I made sure to drink some extra water and eat some extra crackers and I felt fine. We were almost to the finish now!
Eventually we crossed a big road and ran along a paved bike path for a couple of miles. I enjoyed this stretch, as I felt it was a good time to make up a little extra time. I knew the end of the trail was going to be straight up, and my main mantra when trail running is always... RUN when you can. Take as much as advantage of run-able trails as you can possibly muster. Eat and drink as you hike up the uphills and run, jog, hobble quickly on the downhills. (My other mantra is: always forward progress. Even if you are slowly walking... you are making forward progress which is always better than NO progress).
One thing I noticed during this stretch though, was that the blue blazes on the trees were gone. Just the path and at intersections with roads, there would be a little blue arrow telling you which way to go. We got a little confused at a couple of intersections, but only lost a few minutes getting back on track.
Welcome to Sewanee:
You're about to get lost, bitches.
All the sudden, we were off the bike path and in a creek bed. We had followed the arrows to cross the street into the creek bed, so we just assumed it was part of the trail. We both mentioned that it was weird that that still weren't any blue blazes, but then there hadn't been for awhile (along the bike path). In hindsight... YES, we should have backtracked then. But, we were about 2 miles from the finish, running alongside the main road that we drove in on and figured that the trail would be on the otherside of the creek.
And we did find a trail. Which turned into a logging road and for awhile it seemed like we were heading towards the big hill to the finish. But there were NO Blue Blazes. Melissa was the smart one and wanted to backtrack to the creekbed, but I was stubborn and didn't like the prospect of the extra time it would take to backtrack. We forged on.
Long story short... we ended up hitting about 20.5 miles (according to Melissa's Garmin and I finally agreed to backtrack). We knew we'd have to go back to about mile 18 or so... and while it wasn't that big of a deal to go that much further, we were concerned that the guys were going to be worried about us. But, at that point, there wasn't anything else to do.
We started backtracking and about a mile in I noticed a blue ribbon tied to a tree. And then above it... another blue ribbon tied to a tree. I decided to run up to the second tree and see what was up there. And to my surprise.... I saw a SEA of trees with blue blazes. I mean like every single tree was blazed! Hooray! I yelled for Melissa to follow me and that I had found "blue blaze heaven." FINALLY! We had found the path and we excitedly started running down that trail. We started making our way up and we just knew that it was going to be to the big cross where we started.
Except... it wasn't.
Thankfully, it did have a water spicket, so Melissa was able to fill her pack up, and while she did that, I ran towards the road, hoping to find some kind of directional cue for where the fuck we were and where we needed to go.
A car drove by and I flagged it down.
Me: Do you know where the Memorial Cross is?
Him: The Cross on campus?
Me: Yes, the big cross.
Him: Oh, it's way over there (Points off into oblivion)
Me: Oh. Shit.
Melissa had arrived at this point.
Melissa: How far do you think it is?
Him: probably 4 miles.
Melissa: Can I borrow your phone to call my husband?
Him: Blank Stare
Him: Uh. Sure. What's the number.
So, Melissa left a message on Jeff's cell phone that we weren't dead, we were lost and that we'd be there whenever we found our way.
We opted to head back to the trail and try to backtrack the blue blazes. Thinking that maybe we'd found the trail too far along and missed the cross.
At some point we started climbing again and I said to Melissa... Uhhh.. I think we are just going to the other side of St. Marys.
And sure enough... 2 minutes later... we were on the exact same road where we had found the car, but about 200 yards away (and about a mile on the trail to get to that point).
Another car came by and Melissa flagged it down.
And in that car... was our Easter Miracle. The nicest couple you've ever met... who, when they found out we were lost... offered us a ride back to the Memorial Cross. And then.. after 24 miles and about 6 hours... we were finally back at our car and reunited with Jeff and The KoB.
In the end.. no harm/no foul and honestly.. it was a good exercise for Melissa and I... we both kept our cool and while we were frustrated to have to be covering more miles than we had planned... we handled the whole thing really well and I think it actually gave us more confidence about covering the miles and the mental highs and lows of the Grand Canyon.
We tried to figure out where we went wrong and got lost and the boys said that there was a point before the creekbed where we were supposed to cross the road again. UGH. Oh well.