Pauline Nevins April 21, 2021 - Auburn Journal
I'm so stupid, she said. Olga was telling a story to me and other members of Auburn's Newcomers & Neighbors walking group. Hidden Falls Regional Park was the subject. The name was familiar because of the public outcry from residents impacted by the park's expansion. Olga, however, was not talking about the expansion. She was talking about the hike she took three days earlier.
A long-time member of the walking group, Olga regularly joins the twice-weekly hikes. Because of mobility issues, she and her fluffy 12-pound Pomeranian, Chloe, stay in the back of the pack. They typically take the less challenging route of a hike if there is one. That option was available at Hidden Falls.
While the rest of the group navigated down the trail to the waterfall, Olga took the easier path to a bridge. After she and Chloe rested and enjoyed the view, Olga, who may not have read about the Donner Party, decided she'd take a shortcut. Instead of returning the way she came, she crossed the bridge, reasoning that the trail along the creek would lead her back to the car park.
After walking on the trail for longer than she expected, she asked directions from two cyclists who had ridden up behind her. They replied with three words no hiker wants to hear: "You are lost." They advised her to turn around and go back to the bridge.
Olga is 79 years old. She emigrated from Czechoslovakia 50 years ago, and she and her husband owned and operated a local restaurant for 15 years. Olga trusts her instincts. She ignored the cyclists. She continued on and eventually came to a directional sign. Although it was difficult to read without her glasses, she realized the cyclists were right. She should have turned around. Now, she decided, she had traveled too far to go back. On she trudged.
Olga's knee hurt, her feet hurt, her head hurt. She was exhausted. She had no water, and no phone. But, she said, I knew I had to keep going. After reading a second park sign, she realized just how lost she was. Olga had walked further and further away from the parking lot, and deeper and deeper into the remote area of the park.