Updated: Jun 22, 2020
We were climbing the tallest mountain in the eastern United States and didn’t expect what we found at the top. Hiking resembles life in that way. Things don’t always go as planned. Several miles into the 10+ mile round trip hike, I considered turning back. As the clouds rolled in, and the rain started, I knew we were in for a more treacherous climb than I expected. The wet rock ledges and stone staircases became slippery and dangerous. The chances were good that the amazing view I hoped to see from the top would be covered with clouds and fog. A sane person would have turned around!
Rather than call it a bust, I used these 4 mindset hacks to turn this seemingly disappointing hike into one of my all-time fave hiking memories.
1. The view isn’t the only reward - So often we get into the outcome-focused hiking mindset. We fixate on what’s at the end or the top. We want that Insta-moment that we’ve seen captured by other hikers. However, there’s more to hiking than just what we can see or photograph. I still remember the stillness and the sound of the rain on the large rhododendron bushes that lined the LeConte trail. I remember the cold, wet mist on my face as I ate lunch huddled under the covered porch of one of the deserted cabins. Never was there more relief than when I arrived back at the trailhead safely to climb into the warm, dry car. None of that is a visual memory, but all things that made the hike memorable.
2. Mother Nature is full of surprises – And really, isn’t this why we love her? If nature were predictable, it would be boring. Honestly, we love the variability. I can hike the same trail every other day and experience something new each time. This variety is what keeps me coming back. Appreciating that means that you graciously accept the unexpected.
3. Live in the moment – Don’t spend time dwelling on the hike you should have had. Climbing out of the Grand Canyon in a driving snowstorm was not what I planned on when I signed up for my first rim-to-rim experience. However, seeing the snow swirling around me and my fellow hikers bundled up to their eyeballs made me laugh. Was I cold and wet – YES! However, I found delight and joy in the small aspects of the trail and the camaraderie the crazy experience was building with my hiking group.
4. Bragging rights – Remember how your parents walked to school, uphill both ways, over broken glass, in the driving snow? Well, now you have your own fantastic tale to tell! Hiking out of the Grand Canyon in near white-out conditions, I couldn’t help thinking, “No one is going to believe this!” And I was right. Everyone who hears the story of the snowstorm in late May thinks I’m making it up. (See pic below for proof) If you want to up the ante with your story and talk about your blistered feet and how you’re pretty sure a bear was stalking you the whole way, I won’t judge. Tales from the trail are the best way to turn an unexpected experience into a memory you’ll recount again and again!
Have a an unexpected hiking experience that you love to share? Tell me about it in the comments below!
Grand Canyon south rim, late May 2019. I'm the one in the middle.