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[pct-l] Stories from the edge

I'll never forget the time I learned about the backcountry travel tactic
of "intentional offset" the hard way.  This involves intentionally hiking
to the left or right of a target location, such as a car parked on a road,
so that when you reach the road you know which way leads to your car.  I
was driving around the Salton Sea area in southern Cal, exploring new roads
sometime close to sunset.  Traveling north on a long, lonely stretch of
highway on the lake's east side, I became overwhelmed by the scene before
me and had to initiate lunacy.  I parked impromtu-like on the roadside and
ran west like a man possessed for the Sea shore, over an eerie moonscape of
salt and clay pockmarked with steepsided washes and eroding dunes.  Ah,
the dangers of a "featureless" landscape - the water looked so close.  
Following the path of least resistance, which was pretty roundabout, I
finally arrived, out of breath, about 20 minutes later.  Greeting me were
a phenomenal sunset, a tranquil salt bath, and a whole lotta dead fish.  It
But it was time to head back to the car.  Darkness was nigh.  I was too tired
to run, so figured on about a 40 minute return trip.  In the fading light I
could barely make out the car back on the roadway, easily 2 miles distant.  It
quickly became apparant that the roundabout beeline I had made to the water's
edge would be hard to duplicate in the opposite direction, with no light and
a really tiny target.  But it didn't hit me until I could see nothing but
the stars above and the faint outline of the Chocolate Mountains ahead, that
the road I would inevitably hit would yield few clues as to which direction
led to the car.  A wrong turn in either direction would have meant a
substantial detour.  The road was featureless.  No building would have
jogged my memory.  No trees.  Almost no traffic.  And the distance you walk
in one direction before deciding it's the wrong direction is exactly half
the distance you curse loudly about on the return walk!
Thankfully the headlights of another car were moving northbound on the road
I was approaching - past my field of view from right to left, in that slow
but ever-visible way that light moves across the nighttime desert.  Its light
shone briefly on my car as it passed.  An anonymous benefactor in the night.
  The beeping which accompanies the opening of a car door sounded odd to me
after my hour in the silent vastness.  It signaled safety.  My mind was then
able to ponder adventure, that which we create by overcoming ignorance and
the unexpected.
- Blister>Free
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