Getting Lost in the Woods Helped One Woman Find Herself

A wrong turn in the woods led Barbara Bradley Hagerty to a different career path.

Photograph by Matthew Worden

Travel > Nearby Getaways > Great Weekends 

National Public Radio correspondent Barbara Bradley Hagerty considered a few careers before choosing journalism. At one point she wanted to be a mountaineer.

“I’d spent summers as a backpacking counselor in Colorado and was very confident with a compass,” she says.

The summer before her senior year in college, she asked her older brother, David, then 27, to join her for a hike. “It was the one thing I could do that he couldn’t,” she says.

“She took me to the mountains of West Virginia for a brother/sister camping trip where she could show me her training by taking us off-trail,” recalls David Bradley, now owner of Atlantic Media Company. “We were lost for 24 hours.”

It was Cranberry Mountain, in Monongahela National Forest, and as Hagerty tells it, “I told him to relax, I was in the driver’s seat, and proceeded to take a shortcut. We were soon lost in the thickest, prickliest shrubbery you have ever seen. Our arms and legs were bloody, and we couldn’t see more than 20 feet ahead.”

The next afternoon, sure they were in the middle of nowhere, they heard the horn of an 18-wheeler. They made their way to a road and found their car.

Hagerty says she decided after that weekend “that surviving in the wilderness was not my forte—so I became a reporter. And David made the decision not to place his destiny in anyone else’s hands. I have never lived it down.”