This past week my husband and I traveled to Bar Harbor, Maine for a short vacation, and made it a priority to do some exploring in Acadia National Park. It features the best of two hiking worlds - coastline and mountains. As is my custom, I researched the heck out of trails and found a combination of two that I thought would fit in with our desire to see as much as possible within the timeframe we had.
We started out on the easy Ocean Path next to the shore. Gorgeous day. Slight breeze. A fair number of other people were out, but it wasn’t crazy crowded. And dogs - lots of people were hiking with their doggos, which is as much a part of the scenery for me as any scenic vista. We turned inland to the right for the Gorham Mountain Trail, described online with such encouraging terms as “relatively modest,” and “gentle ascent." I’m not sure who writes these descriptions, but as we neared the trailhead we saw a big yellow sign: WARNING - Backcountry trail. Take water. Tell someone where you're going. This did not sound particularly modest or gentle, but we saw tons of people coming and going. I rationalized - the sign seemed like overkill.
So in my never-ending quest to travel light, I skipped packing my hiking boots. We didn’t bring any water either. Water for a 2 mile “gentle” hike in 70-degree weather?? Pshh. Well, ok...actually we forgot. While I’m not sure I could be accused of being outdoorsy, I’ve done a fair amount of hiking. I was a Girl Scout. I’ve been around and about on Rainier, hiked in Glacier, explored Chaco Canyon and Bandelier National Monument, trekked all over the Smokies, even climbed to roughly 11,000 feet on Santa Fe Baldy. But never have I ever hiked a trail that looked like this, the whole way:
The entire thing was covered in rocks - not gravel, mind you, but like mini-boulders. Rocks all the way up, rocks all the way down. I kept thinking that at some point the path would smooth out some but heck no. My lightweight Nike cross-trainers were totally inadequate for the task, slippery and wobbly. It quickly became less of a stroll and more of an awkward, tense climb. Again I rationalized, and talked to myself…”Two miles. For heaven’s sake, it’s only two miles. Way less than the typical treadmill workout. I’m into it this far. I’m kind of thirsty, but there are like at least 100 other people out here who would probably take pity on us if I collapsed. Oh my God, Sara, you are not going to collapse. You’re just uncomfortable, and your legs are a little short, and this is different - that’s all."
I found myself comparing my experience to the dozens of people who were better prepared. People who had the common sense to wear the right shoes and bring along some hydration. But then I saw the couple with the dachshund, bravely wagging her tail as she hopped across the stones with her tiny legs. And the tall, tough-looking guy wearing flip-flops looking hapless, maybe even a little sheepish, but determined. So I resolved to make friends with the path and slowed down. One rock at a time. We made it to the top, and were rewarded with sights like these along the way:
Just past the peak, we encountered a family coming up from the opposite direction - Mom, Dad, four small kids (one strapped on Dad’s back), and their dog. They had stopped next to some boulders to regroup, blow noses, and calm some whining. Mom looked at us and asked with more than a hint of desperation, “Is it far?” No, we assured them. You’re almost there, you’ll make it. It’s a cool view. It’s totally worth it to keep going - hang in there.
Sometimes, despite a reasonable amount of experience and thinking you’ve done your research, you miss something. You disregard something you didn’t think was essential. Maybe in a sense, it wasn’t - but it sure would have made the path more comfortable to have it. Although being well-prepared to reach a goal is always a wise way to move forward, as long as it’s not reckless it can still be rewarding to proceed without all the right tools - or even carrying some extras you didn’t need. If you start to organize a space and find you’ve neglected to consider your inadequate storage options, or how to dispose of things, or even pick up extra trash bags, there’s still the option to continue. Imperfectly, perhaps, but still continue and be successful. Slowing down and not allowing an imperfect set of conditions hold you back can be a thing.
Connecting with my authentic, sometimes unprepared, and wimpy self is uncomfortable. And connecting with an authentic, sometimes unprepared, and disorganized self is also uncomfortable. But it’s totally worth it to keep going - so hang in there.
“You’re off to great places, today is your day. Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way.” - Dr. Seuss
Sara Skillen - Certified Professional Organizer®, Certified Organizer Coach®, wife, mom, and serial list-maker. Learning to trust my intuition more every day. Shall we work together?