I hiked a lot on this vacation. Like, A LOT a lot. Eight official 3+ mile trails and over three dozen small stopoffs that were anywhere from 0.25-1 mile long. And sometimes, when I’d turn around, I’d think, “How the F*@#&$ did I get up here?”
The truth is, navigating the trails is a not always as easy as you’d think. Well, sure, sometimes they’re totally clear cut in front of you, and you just have to walk right on through, even if the terrain is occasionally a bit steep and rough.
Other times, even when the trails are partially covered, you still know where you’re going. You might have to pass over a tree in your path, or a moose, or even a giant puddle, but you still have a good general sense of direction. It might not be the best, or easiest route, but you can still make it to the other side.
But sometimes, the trail directions are ambiguous. How do you know in which direction to go? How do you know where you’re supposed to step, as to not destroy the precious flora and fauna? Where does the trail lead? How much further? Where do we go after this? Are we there yet?
Thankfully, when the road gets rocky, most trails have cairns, little markers that let you know the general direction of the hike. They’re cute little stacks of rocks, and though I’d seen them on the beach at home, I’d never seen them used as a compass before. Being in the desert, with high winds, sometimes they get blown over, and people generally will repair them on their way to the next one. Good Samaritans that don’t want you to get lost, and all…
When there’s no clearly defined route, you follow the cairns, and they lead you down the trail. These were a saving grace along some of the desert hikes, since I had to scramble and shimmy down boulders the size of elephants, and bigger. I’d land in sand – with nothing for as far as the eye could see – and I’d have no idea where to go next.
All of these trail markers made me think. Hiking is a lot like life. Sometimes your path is clear and easy, and there’s no mistaking it. Other times, you come to a fork in the road and have no idea which way to turn. And still other times, you have no direction at all, and could use some guidance.
Not every path is obvious, and at times, even the obvious ones are littered with obstacles blocking your way. They are everything from inconvenient to terrifying to what seems to be impossible – but that’s when you have to remind yourself that nothing really is. You just have to find the fortitude to move them.
And while you might have a good general idea of where you want to go, sometimes you take a wrong turn, and you end up on the edge of a cliff, looking over, wondering how you got there. The important thing is that you remember that you can always forge a new way, or backtrack…just don’t jump!But most of all, these hikes, these trails are best traversed together. When you find someone on his or her own journey, and your paths meet and become one – that’s the best part. When your adventures become shared, and you have someone with whom to celebrate triumphs, grieve losses, and get through the tough stuff. You hold hands, you run forward together, and you don’t look back. And if you get lost, just look for the cairns. They’ll show you the way.