My husband, Alan, walks through the Maine woods regularly with an ease and confidence I cannot share. He has been wandering through vast woodlands since he was 5, so I was not surprised when he saw the old fire tower off in the distance, researched the trail map and decided to hike to it. We had been exploring the Allagash roads for a couple of years. Then one day we saw the old fire tower from the shore of Denny Pond, after an hour’s drive through the Allagash Reserve. The seed to hike there had been planted.

On a sunny September morning in 2015, we drove back into the Allagash together. We stopped at the St. Francis Checkpoint to pick up a trail map, but they were all out. We arrived at the trailhead about an hour later. I kissed Alan goodbye before he headed into the woods with a bottle of water in one pocket, a cookie in the other and, most important, a revolver nestled snugly into its holster beneath his coat. I walked back to the car, pulled out my book and prepared to read until Alan returned.

Two hours later the sun was straight up overhead at 12 o’clock or so. I finished up in the outhouse and decided to walk down the road to Denny Pond to stretch my legs. As I walked further on down, I slowly walked back up the incline to my car, seriously considering my Plan B – just in case. I had no way of contacting Alan. I had no cell service. I had an hour’s drive back to the checkpoint that would close for the night at 5:30 p.m.

Another hour passed as my eyes stared into the darkness of the trailhead. Just then Alan’s tall body slowly emerged into daylight: an apparition, sweaty, tired and worn as I hugged him with sheer relief.

Turns out the trail he had chosen – the one less traveled – had been strenuously mountainous. Alan never made it to the tower. On the way back from Deboullie Pond he took a wrong turn. He decided to turn around when nothing looked familiar. As he crossed a small bridge, he spotted a small piece of folded white paper on the ground in front of him. He picked it up.

As he unfolded it he discovered a miraculous trail map. Alan backtracked to the intersection where he had taken the wrong turn, discovered the correct trail and followed it south.

I hung on his every word as Alan described the harrowing details of a day that could have ended in a much more disastrous way that I could no longer bear contemplating.

“It’s a true miracle that you are standing here,” I whispered, as I looked up into his weary eyes and held him close.

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