East of Ely - Five stages of being lost in the woods

by David Krikorian

Many of us have been lost and obviously survived. But how many are familiar with a web article floating around that relates Kubler-Ross’s five stages of death to the experience? I read this recently and decided to test it out by recalling a day where I totally lost my way in the woods east of Ely.
I’ll begin by relaying one of the most dangerous things you can do in the border lakes region. It seems harmless yet the action nearly rendered me dead. So here it goes.
Never, ever try to locate a secret trout lake while portaging a canoe. Though carrying a canoe over time-trodden portages can be a no-brainer, trying to blaze a trail with a canoe is the same as having a blindfold over your eyes. Don’t try it unless you have some other person leading the way. Back to the five stages.
1. Depression. Stage one set in as soon as I realized I wasn’t going to reel in any fat brook trout that day. I’d have to agree with the article on that.
2. Anger. I had worked like a fool studying the geodetic map, strapping my fishing rod, paddle and life vest to my canoe thwarts, and then I got up well before the sun. Add that to my depression from stage one, and yes, I was pissed.
3. Denial. I’m not so sure how to fit denial into the day, as it seems that my denial occurred the instant I’d decided to plan such a trip, so self-assured that I was going to pull off this stunt alone.
4. Bargaining. I’m not too sure about this stage either. I didn’t try to make a deal with some raven soaring overhead to show me the way. Nor did I try to plead to a higher power. The way I saw it was that the Great Above Person was having a good laugh the whole time. Face it. I was too well entrenched in depression, anger, and furiously trying to find my way in the woods - with my dang canoe blocking my view.
Thanks goodness, I remembered I had a compass. The road was due east, and I was beginning to consider leaving the blindfold, my Wenonah SSJ canoe behind. Even if it meant that I might lose her forever.
Panic - that’s the stage that’s missing here. Yes, you do go through a process of sorts when lost in the bush. Luckily I was taught some important things to do at a time like this. Stop, sit, rest and hydrate. There is something amazing that a pint of water can do. Water not only fills your belly, but also ushers in a sense of well-being that helps you think. Sadly, I cannot advise any of you readers to try this, as I would be essentially telling you to get lost.
5. Acceptance. Accepting my impending death, maybe. Though I’m afraid I’d have a hard time with that, fighting every inch for my life. Yet I have to admit that this stage does have merit when you consider that stage three, denial can kill you if you are lost. The best thing is to admit that when you are lost you are lost and only then will you begin to do something about it.
I’ll let the readers decide whether the five stages fit the bill for them when lost. And I sincerely hope that none of you will ever have to deal with such a situation. By the way, after drinking my magical elixir, water, I remembered to reach into by daypack and pull out my roll of flagging tape. I got up and said a temporary goodbye to my canoe, before tape-marking my way to the road that turned out to be less than two hundred yards away.
Being lost was and is no joke, whether you are miles or a few feet away from the road. And canoe or no canoe, do not try blazing to a secret trout lake alone in these woods.