Following My Master’s Voice

“In 1,000 feet, turn right,” the GPS said.

“Turn right now,” it said.

What you must understand is I had turned off a dirt road onto this dirt road. Pavement, and reliable cell phone service, was as much a memory as that morning’s breakfast. “Road” only loosely described what The Foz’s onboard navigation wanted me to choose at this juncture. County Road 557, if I recall correctly. It can be seen on Google Maps. Just.

County Road 5600, which I was currently on and which (if truth be told) intersected the Loop Southern stage of the Rally In The 100 Acre Wood, was a proper country gravel road. Well-maintained and graded, The Foz comfortably ran a good clip on it. The new route suggested by my car could be described as a road. It would be more accurate, though, to describe it as a trail; while it carved a distinct mark through the countryside, a thin layer of vegetation attested to its position on the list of priorities for the Dent County and Mark Twain National Forest maintenance crews.

Still, I was running close on time and the new route promised to cut off a corner of road maybe best left untraveled. I followed my trusty stead.

A short while later, after I passed what would turn out to be the last convenient place to turn around, County Road 557 steepened, dramatically. It also narrowed, considerably. Still, I had chosen this year to break out of watching the race only from official spectator points, so I was game for adventure.

After the second creek crossing, I decided adventure might have been a bridge too far. At this point, it was clear according to GPS that I was as far in as I had left to go, so I reasoned that the only way out was through. It would take me as long to walk back to the last intersection, at which a bunch of race volunteers had gathered between stages, and the approach road to the turn at which I planned to watch Stage 13 at Southern Loop, where surely someone would happen by shortly.

Also, The Foz and I had completed many adventures on the familiar paths of the Ouachita National Forest, where it had astounded me at what a bone-stock Subaru was capable of (when, of course, I also unadvisedly took the path least traveled). Still, those trails were close to home – and within range of cell towers. Here, I was on my own. So, with a quickening pulse, I slowly guided the vehicle forward over baby-head rocks, through low-water crossings (which thankfully had discharged their flows from the storm two days previously) and then up the steep trail back to County Road 5600.

Perhaps The Foz had been inspired by the Subarus competing at 100 Acre Wood. Perhaps I had been a little too enthusiastic after having discovered Mtn Roo and all those Subaru Overlanding videos on YouTube. At the end of the day, though, I came away impressed yet again by what a bone stock Subaru Forester – admittedly, the Grocery Getter de rigeur – was capable of off road. Some people might have described this detour as a “Jeep trail”, and I cannot say that would be inaccurate; on this day, though, it was a “Subaru trail”. My only regret is I had not spent enough time with my new adventure camera to have captured this leg of my journey, if only to show my wife how truly stupid her husband can be (like she needs more proof).

That, as they say, is what next year is for. I like to say that every year I attend 100 Acre Wood, I learn a little more about how to follow Rally. This year, Falstaff would say, the lesson was discretion being the better part of valor.

Then, again, where’s the adventure in that?

The Foz in its natural element, a proper country road – the Ouachita National Forest

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