When I was working for a German automobile manufacturer—the one Mercedes Benz wants to be when it grows up, my boss and I flew to Germany to participate in a workshop.
It was in Baden-Wurttemberg, the home of the Black Forest and so named because of the dark color of the pine trees found in the area.
I can tell you from personal experience, there is more than one reason for that name.
On the eve of the workshop, the participants got together for dinner at the mountain lodge where we were all staying. After our meal we enjoyed Germany’s national beverage into the wee hours of the morning.
I set my alarm for 4 a.m. to allow me enough time to get in a 10-mile run before we reconvened for breakfast. It was pitch black when I left the lodge, the “perfect storm” of an absence of sun, moon and any artificial lighting whatsoever. Fortunately I had my flashlight to show me the way. Assuming of course that I knew the way, which I most certainly didn’t. For all I knew we were in the middle of nowhere, which wasn’t far from the truth.
After running a couple of miles on the mountain road I took a left turn onto a path that looked rather interesting as it seemingly disappeared into the dark, dense forest. It wasn’t the smartest decision, but I couldn’t fight the sensation of being a character in one of Grimm’s fairy tales so I took a chance.
As I ran deeper and deeper into the forest I jokingly thought to myself, “I should be leaving a trail of breadcrumbs.” After two miles of trail I found myself in an open field and saw a paved road where I could run another mile or so before turning around and heading back to the lodge. That was when I realized the breadcrumbs would have been a good idea.
When I returned to the edge of the forest there was not one but three trails that disappeared into the woods, and I couldn’t discern which of the trails was the one I ran on earlier because in the dark they all looked alike.
I opted for the trail in the middle. After running on it for more than two miles I realized I picked the wrong one and turned around to try one of the others.
The second trail turned out to be strike number two, which was the moment I started to panic. Fortunately I had my cell phone with me, which would have been great had there been service. It turned out to be irrelevant, however since I couldn’t remember the name of the lodge and besides, if anyone answered the phone I didn’t speak German. Calling my boss was out of the question since he was known to sleep with his phone turned off.
Naturally the third trail proved to be the charm. Three hours and 20 dark, desolate miles later I was showered, shaved and still on time for breakfast as it was served an hour behind schedule. It seems the workshop participants had enjoyed a little too much of Germany’s national beverage the night before.
And most of them were recovering from a different kind of blackout.
Scott Ludwig lives, runs and writes in Senoia with his wife Cindy, three cats and never enough visits from his grandson, Krischan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org