The "lost in the woods" scenario is central to the mythos of the "Blair Witch" movie. Admittedly, that's one of those "love it or hate it" flicks, but I think that comes from the ability to empathize with the experience. For me, the movie touched a nerve on several levels. In addition to the parallels with the Skull Creek experiences and my growing up (ages 12 to 20) in a rural area after a childhood in the suburbs, there was another memory that made me identify with the story enough to get caught up in it.
Specifically, my ex-wife and I went camping up in Kisatche National Forest in Louisiana some years back (maybe ~1998?). This pre-dates the modern ubiquity of handheld GPS receivers, but we didn't even have a compass. (See where this is going yet?) Well, I had spent a lot of time in the woods before, but this area was very novel terrain for me. Even though this was Louisiana, it was uncharacteristically hilly and almost mountainous. There were spots with exposed rocks and minor cliffs that were, to me, just amazing.
We were really caught up with the sights, so we deviated from the trails and pursued anything that looked interesting. At one point we ended up in a valley, and at the bottom of this was a continuous stretch of exposed clay-like rock where the water had washed away the layer of top soil. It was fascinating because the clay always formed cracks in straight parallel lines that were several feet apart. It looked almost unnatural (actually, a friend of mine who is a geologist later explained to me the process that produces this feature... not that I remember it any longer). There was a lot else to see as well, but the point was that we were so caught up in all the wonderful things to see that we managed to get ourselves turned around.
When you're in a valley, you at least know that you came from one of two directions, but that's about it. Unfortunately, we weren't sure which direction to go and, remember, we literally stepped off the beaten path, so it wasn't going to be obvious where we were unless we cut through the woods anyway. Well, we went up one side the valley and, when we got to the top, we looked around and weren't sure that we went in the right direction. Rather than following through and confirming or rejecting that assumption, we doubled back and went to the opposite side of the valley and repeated the process.
Now we had been running around in the woods for several hours without having brought anything with us to eat or drink, so we were getting ourselves worn out at this point. It was only a few hours before dusk, and running back and forth across this valley was completely doing us in physically, never mind the fact that we were quickly getting frustrated. To make matters worse, my ex did not handle situations like this very well at all and was literally hyperventilating and believed she was dying, particularly of thirst. Thankfully, the latter case was unlikely thanks to there being water pooled in several places at the bottom of the valley and many other places, but try explaining that to someone in the midst of a panic attack.
My suggestion was that, no matter how big the place was (and, yes, it was absolutely huge), if we headed in one direction for long enough, we would eventually reach one of the many roads though the park or we would end up on a highway at the periphery of the park. Either way, we would find something that would give us direction. My ex was still freaking out, but we trekked for only a short distance before we came across the road we had driven in on that lead right back to our tent, probably less than a half a mile away.
Granted, things might have been worse had we gone 180 degrees in the opposite direction, but it all came out okay in the end. Still, the feeling of complete helplessness for that period when we tried in vain to find the trail was torture, plus there was this sense of resignation that we might have to walk for many miles before we would ever be able to rest. It was a scary prospect, even if it mercifully wasn't borne out in reality.
All of the above coupled with the discoveries of the rituals at Skull Creek and lots of camping out experiences made the "Blair Witch Project" transcend the bad acting and really jump into the real world for me..
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