Trust Your Instincts and Carry Water
We were on a mission, to find the pond at The Star Fort – Ninety Six National Historic Site, a revolutionary battlefield in Greenwood County, SC. The last time we had walked this site, the trail to the pond was closed. I thought I had a good remembrance of where the trail to the pond was.
We were hardly parked and out of the car before we ran into someone we knew who was just finishing up her walk. After a short exchange of hello’s, David asked her if she knew where the pond was. She was sure she knew, and she sent us off in the opposite direction from where I thought we should go. “Walk to the structure that looks like a fancy deer stand, go left off the paved path, and that will take you right to the pond.” David felt confident, I was not so sure, but off we went to follow our friends’ directions. Going left by the fancy deer stand took us a short distance to a gravel road. Hmm, which way here? Right or left? There were no signs indicating the direction of the pond. We went right for a little way, but having no idea where we were, we back tracked to the paved trail.
Seeing another walker resting on a bench about 100 yards away, we thought we’d ask him. He was certain also, that he knew where the pond was. He even pulled out his All-Trails app to try to show us. “Go straight” he said. “You can’t miss it.”
We headed off in the direction he pointed (again opposite of where I thought the pond was), and kept going straight until we ran into another gravel road, or maybe it was the same gravel road we had recently been on? Right or left? Again, no sign. This time we turned left and after a short walk we saw the main road ahead. Not wanting to walk the black top, we veered off onto another path that we hoped would take us back to the parking lot of the Star Fort Historic Site.
Some animal had lost its life on this section and the skeleton was scattered around the trail. Was this an omen that we were again headed in the wrong direction. By now, I was trusting my instincts and felt that we were headed back to the parking lot.
Once we got to the car, David was ready to be done. He was frustrated and his Fitbit told him we had walked close to 5000 steps. I didn’t want to give up, but I did want a drink. And I wanted to find that pond, fulfill our mission. I talked about the sense of accomplishment we would feel once we found it. I said I should have trusted my instincts in the first place and headed off in the direction I remembered. David looked skeptical. I suggested we go to the Visitor Center and ask the ranger. He agreed to that.
The volunteer at the desk, and the ranger, pulled out a map and pointed us in the direction I originally wanted to go. “Take the Goudy Trail to the Cherokee Trail,” they said, “and that will take you to the pond.” We were barely out the door before the volunteer came out and said she would show us. She hadn’t been to the pond in 6-7 years, and she thought going there again was something she wanted to do. David seemed to feel better about having a guide, and off we went.
Donna, the guide, was a history buff. She shared some history with us, not specifically about Star Fort, but interesting stories. We also talked about how she lost her husband to Covid. We talked about her granddaughter who was having a baby soon, her job as an administrative assistant at Lander University for 30 faculty members and should she stay in her big house or downsize. Walking and talking we passed an unmarked crossroad trail. She didn’t notice it. I wondered about it.
A little way past that, Donna stopped. She thought we had gone too far. She was unsure. I mentioned seeing the crossroad trail. We decided to head back and look for the sign that would indicate it was the Cherokee Trail. There was no sign, but looking at the map, we all thought this must be the Cherokee Trail. We agreed to try it.
The Cherokee Trail – maybe?
It was a nicely shaded trail; wildflowers were expressing their delicate new growth along the side of the trail and we kept walking. And walking and walking. By now, we were trusting my instinct that we were headed in the right direction, following the blue blazes on the trees, because there still had been no sign. In his beautiful, deep voice David said, “I see water through the trees.” We had found the pond! Success!
It was now close to lunch time, and we were hungry. We also had made the mistake of not carrying water and we were thirsty. We had achieved our mission after four miles of walking in almost every direction. Time to head back to the fort parking lot and get lunch and water.
Why didn’t I trust my instincts initially? Our friend seemed so sure, it created some self-doubt in me. And yet I have learned over and over in life to trust my instincts. I can say without hesitation, every time I made a choice that seemed to be counter to my instincts or my intuition, it did not turn out well.
I did feel a sense of accomplishment that we found the pond, but we did not linger. As I said we were hungry and thirsty. Next time. Now we know where we are going, and we will be more prepared. Even David was glad we continued on. He told me so later.
Have a sense of adventure. I had my phone with me so if we had become hopelessly lost, we could have called for help. I did open the All-Trails app and was able to track where we had been and where we were going. Reasonable adventure adds spice to our lives. I do not want to jump out of an airplane or bungy jump off a bridge. If that is your thing, go for it. But I like to push my comfort zone a little bit, just to know that I can.
Always carry water on a trail! Enough said about that!