Friday, July 31, 2015

Fear of Farbluzhet...

When I was a little "boychick," the Sambur Homebody family would hit the open road every now and then. Our vehicle was usually a used Chevy in suspicious condition. (We even owned a Corvair!)  I would take my place in the front between Sid and Clara. My older brothers watched the Bronx go by from the backseat. 

We would be cruising around when Clara would pipe up, "OY! We are Farbluzhet!" This is the Yiddish word for hopelessly lost. Sid would then get the "I'm nervous, very nervous" look combined with his worried expression. Those weren't happy moments in the Sambur Chevy. So I grew up thinking getting Farbluzhet should be avoided and feared at the same time. 

Now I hike in wilderness areas and alone most of the time. I take a large scale Trails Illustrated map, and often times a vague notion of what lies ahead. I also carry a fear of getting lost in my backpack too.The worst thing about becoming "disoriented" is how it would screw up my Happy Hour schedule. 

On my recent three day, 30 plus miles backpack trip in the Maroon Bells Wilderness, my fear of pulling a disappearing act was more pronounced than normal. I heard from reliable sources (a Wilderness Ranger) that a segment of my itinerary was dicey. The official U.S. Forest Service handout acknowledged the trail was "lightly used and steep." The insider info I pulled out of the Ranger was this, "When you get over the pass, take a hard right. Aim for the bottom of the bowl." Pretty vague. Right? 

I asked him, "Can't I just follow the creek drainage to the intersecting trail?"
His no-nonsense response, "No! Unless you can swim waterfalls." Not so much.

So I hit the trail early to buy myself more time to get lost and found. The hike up the pass was so easy a Caveman could do it. (good line, GEICO.)  At the top, I saw a large bowl below me and faint routes wandering off at odd angles from that point. I chose the way "hardest right." I quickly realized my choice was an elk thoroughfare. There were hardly any signs of Homo Sapiens. However, those elk must have been civil engineers as there meanderings followed the ridge's contours. Strong work until an elk labor dispute caused the construction project to come to a halt. At that point I began to imagine seeing trails at the bottom of the bowl. I gingerly made my way down. Nope! It was those nasty trail mirages. I hiked this way and that generally going downhill. It took my about half a mile before I found a genuine cairn. Like a bloodhound on a scent, I began to follow. I might have howled even. The trail crapped out often, but I stay focused. 

It took many hours of beating the bush to arrive at a more user friendly trail. I really like that one since it took me back to Barley the Van and a date with Happy Hour.

My point to all this? Don't get farbluzhet. You might get Sid's "I'm nervous, very nervous" worried look. It will upset your kids too. 

Stay Found,


  1. Beautiful pictures! Don't trust all USGS quadrangles either! We started out once from the Green Mountain trailhead in RMNP, headed up a trail clearly marked on our official map, but we passed through both visitor centers too early to consult rangers. The first couple of miles were fine. Then we came to a sign, "TRAIL NOT MAINTAINED BEYOND THIS POINT." However, we could clearly see the trail continued as marked on the map, so we forged ahead. Several hours and soaked boots and socks (no bridges) later, we arrived at Long Meadow - but not at the top, as shown on the map. We were a mile or more away from the trail, at the bottom end of what was not a meadow, but a fen, several inches deep in frigid water flowing downhill. Obviously, the trail had not been built where shown on the map! My husband hauled out the map and this time also his trusty compass. We bushwhacked back to the trailhead, arriving just as dusk was starting to turn to night. Worried that our children would have called for help when they didn't hear from us by darkness, we stopped in Estes to phone home (no cell phones in those days). Our daughter said, "Hi, Mom!" When asked if she'd called for assistance for us, she scornfully said, "No. We knew you'd be late. You always are!" So much for notifying family members of your plans!

  2. Great story and photos! Thank you!