This is the true story of a mid-week adventure that Ryan Abbatoye, Nathan Woods and I had before the 2007 Olympia, WA round of WORCS (told in third-person)… Robby
Lost in the Forest
His heart was pounding mercilessly into his rib cage as he traveled down the highway. He was still six miles from home, his salvation, and suddenly Robby found himself surrounded by a menacing biker gang, closing in around him to seal any escape routes. Ryan had run out of gas miles ago and Nathan was nowhere to be seen, leaving Robby on his own, unknowing of this mob’s intentions, hoping to see any signs of familiarity. He’d witnessed the sun travel nearly the distance of the sky since his adventure began and all he could think to himself at this moment was, “I thought we were only going to be gone an hour!”
The day began innocently enough as they awoke to the crisp northern air of Olympia, Washington, with a lackadaisical day ahead and nothing on the agenda but a leisurely trail ride through the Capitol Forest. Nathan, a truly stalwart individual with a very cool demeanor, sat waiting for Ryan and Robby to finish getting ready. As the two made there way up to him, Robby had to make a quick U-turn to pick up his tool pack. He responded to some playful banter with the phrase, “Prepare for the worst!” and they were finally off into the forest for a bit of fun.
Robby had spent a couple days riding in the area and took them on a loop he was familiar with, twisting and turning through the trees of the Capitol Forest like a snake winding its way over the terrain. The loop was enjoyable but brief and as they reached a fork in the trail, the right path heading back home, it was obvious to Ryan and Robby that Nathan hadn’t had his fill. “Let’s check this trail out for a little ways” and with Nathan’s words they turned left and headed deeper into the forest.
It was definitely an exciting trail, partially due to the terrain, but also the adventure of exploring the unknown. None of them had been this far into the Forest before, but they were enjoying this escapade and gave little thought to time or heading. The three later reached a clearing, perched high on a hill, allowing a full view of the forest. They sat there for a moment of shared silence, taking in a panoramic view of the ninety-one thousand acre Capitol Forest; rolling hills blanketed in a thick, lush green with endless potential for new and unexplored trails. Ryan finally stated, “Looks like an easy place to get lost.” Nathan gave a slight chuckle, uttered, “Nah, you can find your way,” fired up his bike and took off in search of the next epic route.
The new paths were fun and enticing, but as their stomachs started to growl, each agreed that it was time to make their way back. The obvious choice was to turn around and retrace their steps out of the forest, but it seemed more fun, and easy enough, to make a loop back to camp so they wouldn’t have to double back. They’d been riding for quite some time and some of the trails started looking rather familiar but Nathan continued to lead the way, determined they would find the right trail that would lead them back to the campsite. Finally after arriving in the same area for what seemed like the fourth time, Nathan stopped and came up with a different strategy.
Logging roads wound all throughout the forest and Nathan felt they could use those to help navigate their way. As he was explaining his logic, Ryan and Robby were giving him glances that looked very much like a couple of deer caught in some very bright headlights, and with those blank stares of agreement, the three re-mounted their machines and put Nathan’s plan into action.
It had been a couple hours and each road looked exactly the same with the wall of trees surrounding them, but they had to keep pushing, trying to find the right combination of roads that would lead them back to a trail they recognized. A slight bit of panic was setting in and Ryan finally came out with the words all three were fearful of, “we’re so lost.” Adding to their dilemma was the fact that Ryan’s gas tank was smaller and he was running desperately low. If he ran out, they’d have to ditch the bike, have him ride double on one of the other bikes, then not only continue to find their way out, but, once they had managed to find a way out and get some gas, hope to find the way back in to where they’d left the bike and retrieve it; and of course there was always the option none of them wanted to think about: spending the night out in the wilderness. They all knew there was a lot riding on the next decision, but Nathan didn’t even blink when he said, “Let’s try this way.” And the other two followed closely behind.
They still had no idea where they were going, but at least they were pretty sure they hadn’t tried this road yet, so, most likely, they weren’t heading in another circle, and they soon ran into a group of mountain bikers which meant civilization must be near by. The group had a map that looked like a intricately drawn maze, but they were able to decipher that the campsite was over ten miles away, which was actually almost double because of all of the twists and turns of the trails, so their only chance to get some gas was to continue in the direction they were headed, hope to come out at a nearby highway and pray there was a gas station not too far away.
After thanking the group of mountain bikers and checking to see that Ryan was more or less running on fumes, the three started their bikes and took off yet again. These roads looked more burned in and it wasn’t too long before they came to a paved road and a shred of hope swept over them. They took a right and headed for the highway, but just then Ryan’s bike began to sputter and then abruptly died; it had finally run dry. Nathan and Robby took turns riding right next to Ryan and pushing him with their feet until their legs were on fire, then Ryan would jump off and push his bike a ways. For miles they continued in this vein, longing for a downhill to ease some of the stress of pushing Ryan’s machine up the deserted highway.
Finally, up in the distance, they could see a small gas station and yet more stress started to vanish from their heavily burdened shoulders. They pulled in, ready to fill up, but the gas station only took a specific gas card, no cash, and again it seemed the fates were conspiring against the three. Just then a man drove up in an old, beat up work truck and Robby used what little money he carried in his tool pack to pay the guy to put some gas in their tanks hoping it would be enough to make it back. They still had ten miles of highway to cover, and the worry of coming across a Highway Patrol, but home, and the end of what seemed like an endless day, was within reach.
They had just finished filling their bikes with gas when Nathan fired up and took off, wide open, not even a glance back to see if the others were following; apparently he was ready to be home. Robby rolled out onto the highway next, just ahead of Ryan, but soon found himself alone; since Ryan didn’t know how far it was to the camp, he didn’t want to use too much gas by blazing up the highway and risk running out once again. Robby rode nervously up the highway, dreading the thought of coming across a cop, when he felt the rumble of a large group of Harley riders come up from behind him. They slowly started encircling him, blocking off any gaps; Robby had no idea of their intentions and started to plan an escape, but just then, one of the riders gave him a thumbs up. They had made themselves into a shield around him, giving him a roaring escort down the highway.
His heart finally lifted and not long after he saw the campsite and all of the emotions of the day came pouring off of him. He gave the gang a quick salute as he peeled off the highway for home, shouted in the excitement of making it back and rode over to Nathan. Ryan came riding up a minute later, each of them in shock that they had actually made it back. The sun was just setting behind the trees on the horizon and it sunk in that they had spent over eight hours of the day lost in the forest. After a minute of silence, each of them soaking in the day’s events, Nathan finally came out with it, “Same time tomorrow?”