I like to think of myself as a fairly intelligent person. I like to think I’m the sort of person who makes good choices. The kind of person who thinks ahead.
Most of the time.
After a beautiful hike along Twelvemile Beach, I decided to see the namesake of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The park literature was quite clear that the best way to see the rocks was by boat. However the boat rides were inconvenient and time-consuming, and I asked the ranger at Miners Castle if there was a good hiking trail I could take to see the pictured rocks. She pointed to the Lakeshore-North Country Trail that runs the length of the park. The trail clearly stretched for miles, but she assured me that the best view was within the first two miles. “You’ll know it when you see it,” she explained.
The trail took awhile to get going, but before long I could tell I was walking parallel to the lakeshore and high on the cliffs above the Pictured Rocks. I saw a small side trail that led out towards the edge, and I got my first look at the rocky shore. It was beautiful. The little trail could barely reach out far enough to see the view, but it was there. I went back to the main trail and encountered another side trail only a few minutes later. It had solid footing and a nicer view. I started taking pictures. By the third trail I visited, I had a completely unobstructed view. I admired the gorgeous painted rocks and began to wrestle with another problem.
“Well this seems like a great way to accidentally kill yourself,” I said out loud to no one in particular.
The sand was loose and sloped off the cliff edge. This was not an official trail stop, which meant there was no safety railing. There wasn’t even a ranger planning to stroll by, and I hadn’t seen another hiker the entire time. What I could see was a long hard fall into the water below.
It wouldn’t take much. I little loose gravel and a poor choice in footing and I’d be on my side. A little more gravel and I’d be sliding towards the cliff edge. I’d be picking up speed, so it wouldn’t be so surprising when I failed to stop myself. Dying upon impact was certainly a possibility, but it wasn’t a certainty. A clean drop into a deep patch of water and I might not even be injured. Of course there was no beach down there, only rocks. Perhaps I’d be better off swimming away from shore and hoping the adrenaline would keep me going until I reached a real beach. If I swam towards the rocks I risked being slammed up against them. Even if I was only injured, the blood loss might be enough. If I were extraordinarily lucky another hiker might be stupid enough to walk out far enough on the same ledge and see me on the rocks. Assuming that happened in the first two hours, and it only took them 30 minutes to get back to civilization, and it only took an hour to get the boat out to me, and 30 minutes to get to shore, and another 30 to reach the hospital, I was looking at a good four hours of bleeding on a rock being pounded by waves.
Yes, it’s a pretty morbid set of thoughts for a young woman to have while walking in a park. However these thoughts are fairly typical for me. And this wasn’t even the worst instance. That would be the next day, in the Porcupine Mountains.