Yesterday was absolutely perfect, weather-wise, and with the repeat warnings of this horrible arctic blast sweeping through NJ, I really wanted to get outside and enjoy it.
By the time I finished work and running errands, the sun was already making its way down past the treeline, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me!
I took Bruce to Jockey Hollow park in Morristown. I used to love running around the 20+ miles of well-maintained trails back when I lived there, so thought I’d take a quick jaunt down memory lane (I thiiiiiink one of their trails is actually called Memory Lane, but I could be getting my parks confused.)
I started getting lost before I even got there. With rush hour traffic upon me, I decided to use Google Maps to get me to the park without driving around The Green (a big square in the center of town). Despite my frustrations with the rapidly dwindling daylight, I quickly realized the app was navigating me toward a different park entrance than the one right up the road.
When I finally arrived at the parking area, it was already 4:36 p.m. Signs posted all around the park notified me of the 5 p.m. closing time. Until I was reminded of how dark it gets at 5 p.m., I thought this rule was total bullshit.
Anyway, I wanted to move quickly to take advantage of the precious moments that were left.
Buuuuuuut, as I parked the car, a lady emerged from the trail with a whole pack of small dogs. No joke, she had somewhere between five and ten dogs! I couldn’t even count them, that’s how many dogs she had.
All I remember was a chubby lady dressed in many colors of neon, floating among a cloud of canines. I wanted her to move her pack out of my way so my dog didn’t freak out, but of course, that’s not what happened at all. No, she felt the need to linger around my car until she could warn me about a buck just up the hill.
By the time we finally got going, we had less than 20 minutes before 5. Not the joyful romp in the woods I was hoping for, but two miles is better than no miles. Fuck it, we push onward!
It felt like I had only taken a few steps before I came upon the first trail intersection. There was a little sign with a little map. The trails had different names and blaze colors. I decided to follow the white one, head out for one mile, then turn around immediately in order to get out of the park by 5.
But there were many such turns, and by the time I turned around, it was starting to get dark. I didn’t get worried until I started ascending a hill and came across two large piles of horse shit I definitely didn’t notice on the way down.
I couldn’t remember the reversed list of turns in my head, but I had obviously taken a wrong one. I turned around and retraced my steps. I checked the trees for white or blue blazes, but THEY ALL APPEARED THE SAME COLOR!
At this point, my Garmin had already buzzed to let me know I finished two miles, yet I was nowhere near the parking lot. It was too dark for me to read the maps, and I couldn’t figure out how to work the flashlight on my phone (I should figure that out.)
Somehow, I emerged onto a wide dirt path. Elated and relieved, I thought this must be the main road that will take me directly back to the parking area.
But when I checked Google Maps for my location, I discovered this wasn’t true. I was just on a different path through the park. It seemed like I was pretty close to the parking area via trail, but there was no way I was going back into the creepy woods in the dark. It was getting colder, and I wanted to stay visible in case park rangers started looking for the owner of the lonely car sitting in the visitor lot after closing time.
The path twisted and led into a small residential area with beautiful houses I never knew were there. Most stood dark, but one house was well lit with the garage doors wide open.
“This person can help me,” I thought.
But I hesitated. This is 2016. Do people still knock on strangers’ doors for help? I thought the homeowners might not take kindly to a strange girl with a large dog approaching their dwelling.
Don’t ask me why, but it was the shiny new John Deere tractor parked in the garage that convinced me the house was cool.
I nervously knocked on the door, arranging an explanation of my situation in my mind.
So, when the nice, middle-aged man approached the door, I was already spitting out the first half of every thought going through my mind…
“I’m sorry to bother you but…
“I’m visiting family and totally lost my bearings…
“I was wondering if you could tell me how to get to…
Then Bruce jumped on the door to say hello.
“Oh, hi!” he said. “Do you need a ride home?”
“Uhhh,” was my response. For some reason, I was entirely unprepared for this exchange to work so well in my favor.
“Don’t worry,” he said, “you’re not the first one. I’ve lived here 16 years, this happens all the time.”
Skip (this very nice man’s name was Skip!) ushered me and my dog to his minivan. It was a sweet minivan with a skybox on it and he already had the back seats folded down for doggie travel. Bruce appreciated this.
The ride back to the parking lot took a while in a car. If I had kept walking on the road, I would have spent at least an hour trying to find it.
During the trip, Skip and I talked about how cool dogs and minivans are.
“It’s really easy to get lost in that park,” he said. “My wife still gets turned around sometimes, but I never get lost because I’m a man.”
You know what? I just decided to let that one go.
Skip dropped us off at my car safely at around 5:30. Luckily, the rangers had not yet come to lock the park gates.
I thought the ride home would be smooth sailing, but Bruce had other plans.
I rolled down the back window a bit so he could poke his head out. Genius that he is, Bruce figured out how to push the button to roll the window down even further. I didn’t notice he had done this until I saw his naughty little paws escaping from the window as I was stopped at a traffic light.
Bruce is a very curious dog who seizes every possible opportunity to explore. But, he always comes back, so I wasn’t surprised when he followed my car around the corner into the high school parking lot.
Here, he decided he’d much rather take a walking tour of Morristown than return home with me. Luckily, there were a couple of dudes in the parking lot who got his attention and held him for me.
Funny how my offers of cookies and dinner prompted him to bolt in the opposite direction, but as soon as a stranger calls him to come, he does so immediately.
I decided to leave the windows up for the rest of the ride home.
On the way, I was listening to Seton Hall’s radio station 89.5 WSOU when they announced a ticket giveaway for my favorite band, The Bouncing Souls. My friend and I had been planning to go to that show, but neither of us had tickets. Long story short, I WON!!!
I won two free tickets to the show at Irving Plaza in NYC Saturday night!
And then, when I got home, I found a $25 gift card in my gym bag that I had totally forgotten about!
I’m so grateful for all the help I received to get home safely, and for the winning streak I’ve been on recently!
I’m also grateful for my dog, even though he’s a ridiculous pain in the arse.
Here are some spooky Blair Witch photos from our run in Jockey Hollow
Freelance writer. Trail runner. Relentless savage.