I got myself into a big mess once. Well, only once that I feel like explaining now. I was twenty years old and we were hiking in the mountains above Hong Kong. We were so close to the city that we could see the lights and see the harbor. That gave us a false sense of security. I was hiking in an area called the Eagle's Nest. It was December but the weather was not too cold. Three families decided we would hike the short trail and come back to our cars before it was dark. The other kids in the family were between the ages of 12 and 20. Several of us moved ahead quickly while the parents took their time. We soon became separated but two of my friends knew exactly where we were going so I was not concerned. About half way through the hike you come to an area with a beautiful view of the city of Kowloon. We stood and watched for a while assuming that our parents and the younger kids would soon show up. After several minutes when they had not arrived we moved on. From there we went down some steps to connect to another trail to take us back to the parking lot. At the bottom of the steps we turned left.
We arrived back at the parking lot in about 20 minutes. The temperature was dropping and it would be dark soon. We waited patiently for our parents and the others to arrive. As darkness descended there was no sign of them. We began to worry.
We knew that none of us should be alone so some of us stayed at the cars in case the others returned and some of us headed back down the narrow trail that lead into the woods. It was difficult to see and as the light faded quickly we had to watch our step. We were running as quickly as was safe. Soon we reached the bottom of the steps. Two or three of us stayed at the bottom and two or three of us ran up the steps. They came back shortly to say there was no sign of the other at the look out point.
The path continued on in front of us. This was new territory to us since we had turned left at the bottom of the steps to get to the parking lot, this was the other direction. We continued running. The ground was moist dirt, not quite mud, but slippery enough to make us move cautiously. After about 20 more minutes of running we found everyone. They had realized as it got dark that the path they were following was not leading them to where we had left the cars. They had turned around and started heading back. We were very concerned about Robert and Ian's mother since she has Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and she was fairly weak. The walk had been very long for here and turning the wrong direction had made it even longer. Robert and Ian helped their mom and the rest of us made sure our parents were okay.
I was reminded of a rule I should have followed that day. Never separate your group. Always travel together. Many of us had climbed mountains and traveled for days in the mountains on dangerous paths. The nearness of the city and its lights had fooled us into thinking that the rule did not apply that Sunday afternoon. After all, it was just a Sunday afternoon walk.