Note: this original blog entry was posted in 2008. The lessons here still hold true.
I recently hiked two 4,000-foot peaks in the White Mountains. This may not seem like a big deal to many – unless you’re afraid of heights like I am. Regardless, I decided to join in on a trip in the White Mountains, thinking, and “How difficult could this be”? What I learned is that there’s a big difference between walking or running seven miles and hiking seven miles!
Call it blind faith or dumb luck….we made it there and back – and learned a few things along the way.
• Lesson 5: Celebrate Your Wins
When we reached the top of the first peak, one of my fellow hikers opened his backpack and cracked open a bottle of Moet champagne. Although he had been through these mountains many times before, he realized that for many of us this was our first time. We raised a glass and celebrated our first victory as we moved cautiously downhill to the second peak.
• Lesson 6: If you’re Not Prepared, Improvise
Ignorance is bliss, and travelling with experienced hikers is definitely the way to go. In retrospect, I probably could have been more prepared for the “simple seven mile hike in the White Mountains”, but we improvised along the way. My fleece jacket became a towel after a while (we were thoroughly drenched from start to finish). I borrowed two walking sticks from another hiker (he had brought an extra pair). And “tree hugger” took on new meaning as I grabbed every branch in sight while sliding down a 45 foot incline.
• Lesson 7: When in Doubt, Keep Going
Throughout the day, it never occurred to me to turn back, and in retrospect, I guess we only stopped twice. At times, some of my fellow hikers questioned the availability of daylight and argued about which paths to take. When the compasses came out, I was a bit nervous, but we appeared to stay on course. There was a critical point where we might have retreated and called it a day – the point of no return, but we didn’t.
• Lesson 8: Never Underestimate How Long Things Take
The guide books estimated that our trip should be completed (under normal conditions) in six hours, and it took us nine hours. When we started, we didn’t have a clear understanding of all of the variables that would affect our progress: fog, rain, slippery terrain, eroded trails, and slower hikers. By the time we returned, our friends were about to contact the state police to report us missing. Would we do it again? Sure. And this time we’re so much wiser!
Which of these lessons sound familiar to you? We’d like to hear what you think!