This autumn day I seek to explore the logging roads.
I’m Mark Poe, I’m sixteen years old.
Mom says I’m handsome, but I don’t agree: I’m too short, pale, skinny, and to many guys have pale, blue eyes already. I don’t even have a beard to hide my face.
I live in Svensen Oregon, a few miles east of Astoria. Astoria is the tourist attraction, the home of the Goonies, Free Willy, and Short Circuit. Svensen, unlike Astoria, is rural with trees, ferns, creeks, and swamps.
Today, I’m going to explore Big Noise, a logging road, which leads to the closest freedom I can find: the woods.
I hit the right turn signal and feather the brake. I downshift to fourth, then third, and finally second, turning onto the gravel. Parking, I exit, and lock the hubs. Once in four-wheel-drive I continue.
The overcast sky peacefully sprinkles its contents, watering the forest. The gravel pops under the tires of my ‘94 Toyota pickup truck. Fir, hemlock, spruce, and alder trees surround the road, forming walls on either side. The names of all the trees and bushes are familiar to me. The rain picks up; I am forced to activate my windshield wipers.
It was noon when I left home. My small dashboard clock now reads 1:32. My stomach growls.
Good thing I brought a lunch.
I park at a fork in the road to eat a sandwich. I consider marking my way by laying a stick in the road, so I don’t get lost.
I’ll probably remember the way without it.
I continue on.
Deer season ended a few weeks ago, though I still don’t see any deer. My dad and I had joked about the deer disappearing during hunting season.
“They’re probably surfing in California,” I had whispered while me and dad returned to the truck, to find a new hunting spot.
“Or they climbed the trees!” Dad replied, turning the key.
Deer remember this time of the year. Almost everyone uses guns, which are effective for killing quickly, but they make too much noise. Fear and loud noises train them to hide. During hunting season they are often only seen in town where shooting is illegal.
Eventually, after striking many dead ends, and passing plenty of forks, I begin my return, to explore another road.
Where am I?
“Dang it!” I grumble as I rub one of my hands through my hair. “How can I be such an idiot?”
I pull over and exit the truck. I look around as if there is something to see that can help, it is futile. There are the familiar trees and plants. Rain pours down my back. No phone in my pocket, no CB in my truck, I have no way to contact anyone. All I have is: my lunch, truck, toolbox, hunting knife, and clothes. I am lost.
I told my mom I was going into the woods, but I didn’t tell her where.
Groaning, I enter the truck and drive along the road, not knowing where to go.
After an hour I observe the dashboard. I jump in my seat, shocked.
“I am an idiot!”
I had forgotten to go to the gas station, before my trip. The needle of the gas gauge rests on E. In thirty minutes, or less, I won’t be going anywhere. If any loggers are around the only way they would find me is if I make noise. I pound my trucks horn, driving thirty miles per hour down the road.
If anyone hears me I might have a chance. If no one hears me… what then? With my luck a cougar would play with me like a mouse!
Twenty minutes slither away, and I stumble upon a section of road, completely overgrown. I put on the brakes and come to a stop before it.
Have I been going the wrong way? I must have: no one has driven on this road in years. And here I am out of gas barely moving. It is pouring rain like usual, and it’s getting dark!
I shift the truck into reverse. As soon as it is turned around it shuts down.
“Are you kidding me? Come on, not now! No! No!” My heart shatters; my stomach aches with dread. “Please start, please,” I plead, trying again.
I try starting the truck, over, and over, without luck. I rest my head against the steering wheel.
The sun begins to set, spilling reds and purples on the dull, cloudy sky, like paints poured on a canvas. The forest loses light, while the sun says, “farewell,” and the trees darken until they are reduced to dark silhouettes of their once green and beautiful selves. There is nothing left to do now, but sleep.