Sunday, October 09, 2011

When Plans Change....

One unhappy hiker. Me on the trail  in '07 with a calf injury

 Inevitably it happens. You are hiking along. You trip over a root. Down you go with an agonizing pain in your ankle. Or knee. Or calf. I can’t begin to tell you how often it has happened to me. In the picture above I am on my northbound hike of the Appalachian Trail with my son, and I felt this sickening pain in my right calf. I knew I needed to get off to have it checked and see what can be done. There’s the pain of the injury. But there is sometimes an even greater pain. Of having to leave the trail and seek medical attention. Of wondering if your hike is doomed. Of having to cope with changes to your plans.

These are the kinds of situations hikers deal with. Thankfully with my calf injury, I was only off a few days. But up in New England later on, I suffered an ankle sprain that forced me off the trail for two weeks. Maybe I needed that initial calf injury to build up the faith inside me that would see me back on the trail when the ankle was ready, determined to complete the journey I had begun.

Many times it's not only injury that causes hikes to change but other things beyond what we might expect or anticipate. Just last week I had planned a three day backpacking trip with an old friend and her husband from my 2007 journey. On Saturday I was all set to go, backpack loaded and ready, only to find out my husband was in desperate need of another soul to help fill a huge gap at the concession stand his Boy Scout troop mans at the football stadium. Several had backed out at the last minute, and he was looking at a shortfall. I looked longingly at my backpack but realized there was a bigger picture here. Many times my hubby had gone out of his way to see my dream fulfilled, meeting me at odd places to help me out, etc. How could I just up and leave him now?

So now I look to heading out on Sunday instead for just an overnighter. Better than nothing. I shouldered my backpack and met my friends. It was a dreary day for hiking, but we were glad to be together. My hubby even met us to offer some surprise trail magic along the way. Only we arrived at Hightop Hut to find it a very dark and cold place with a chilly wind blowing. I was pretty cold but WAS determined to spend the night and even set up my tent. But my friends were anxious, it seemed, to get into a warm place (they never did get out their gear for the night) and my house is but a stone's throw away from the hut. So my plans changed once again as I packed up my backpack and got a ride with a kind couple who were out climbing Hightop Mtn that day to pick up the couple’s car and head for my home. Thankfully I was able to day hike again with my fried later that week, but the three day, two night excursion I had planned turned instead into two day hikes.  

Even today I had planned a big day hike to cover several trails in the Hazel Country of Shenandoah National Park (my goal is to hike every single trail in the park proper). I started out to do it, but after a few detours, realized quickly my goal would not be reached. I felt achy and tired. I came home, feeling somewhat defeated I had not done what I’d set out to do. 

I think at times I am just too goal-oriented to the extent that it can take the joy of a trip. Goals are fine. But there is more to a hike than getting from Point A to Point B. It’s being with friends, enjoying the beauty of early fall in the mountains, enjoying the hike for the hike itself rather than merely the goal. And knowing that plans can and do change and to simply go with the flow and enjoy whatever time you have.

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