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What to Do When Hiking Plans Need to Change

My hiking partner, Brandon, called at the last minute to say he couldn’t make it.


We had planned a strenuous hike on a favorite trail.

Brandon's daughter had some needs.

So I still took the hike. And Brandon took care of family affairs.

Right at the beginning of the hike I chanced upon another friend on his way back out.

We stopped for a fine chat. I felt good.

Hiking gave me this useful “go-with-the-flow” attitude.

It taught me that I can change with the wind and be happy.

Or I can stew in the misery of my disappointments and make others unhappy as well.


Happily Going with the Flow

iI’s hard to count the number of “last minute” changes I've had to make to my hiking plans over the years.

Had I not found acceptable ways of dealing with them I’d have nursed my bitter disappointments and become an even more miserable cuss.

Weather, for instance, is a nasty culprit.


Weather deals disappointments we daren’t ignore.

One recent bout with the fickleness of weather was particularly annoying.

I’d set out to climb Mount Wheeler, our highest peak, by a new trail the day it opened.

I was eager to see what ranger friends touted as the most beautiful addition to our local trail offerings.

It replaced an ugly herd-path etched into a steep scree slope by hikers from Williams Lake.

This new route was one-fourth the distance and two thousand feet less ascent than the longer, old standard route from Bull of the Woods with which I was most familiar.

The rangers were right. it is beautiful.

It wanders through a lush sub-alpine evergreen forest, past moss-covered fallen timber and boulder outcroppings before it opens out onto the tundra to captivating views.

I climbed to within a half hour of the peak. Threatening monsoon clouds that had been gathering on nearby peaks began releasing menacing flashes of lightning.

At first the adrenal charge of “I can beat it to the summit and back” gripped me.

But then caution prevailed.  

Memorial cairns came to mind of climbers in the Rockies who didn’t turn back in similar weather.

So I gave in to better judgment. It was just too close for comfort!

‘Damn,’ I thought, ‘I won’t be able to claim to have climbed Wheeler on the first day this new trail opened.’

But okay, there would be other days and another go at it.


Costly Disappointment in Newfoundland
Laura and Guy Waterman awoke to wet sleeping bags after a wicked storm tore off their tent fly.


Another time I was thwarted by weather was on a challenging route we planned to do in Gros Morne Provincial Park in Newfoundland.

We’d planned for several months, set aside considerable time and expense to undertake this coveted trek.

Still, it enabled us to have an adventure we wrote about in a feature story in an early issue of Backpacker magazine.

It even prompted Guy to compose a jocular rhyme, "The Raucous Raven of the Tuckamoor" (right), about our aborted trek.


Turning Lemons Into Lemonade

I’ve written a post about another hiking expectation that went awry because of weather. But it too turned into a joyous adventure nonetheless.

We planned to hike the classic Tour du Mont Blanc.

My daughter Katie was giving me the hike for my eightieth birthday as “A trek you always wanted us to do, Dad.”

I wrote about this in another post http://williamkemsley.com/backpacking-memories-tour-du-mont-blanc/

We turned that lemon into lemonade – added a few more days to our trek and had a blast.

Thank you, Kate. The best!

Actually, just about every time I’ve had to alter my hiking plans it has turned out to be just as good as the plans I'd made in the first place.

And then too, I’ll be telling of another serious mountaineering excursion I had planned.

I was joining friends for an extended rock-climbing excursion into British Columbia’s Bugaboo Mountain Range.

But it too was changed by many twists and turns that I wouldn’t want to have missed.


The Raucous Raven of the Tuckamoor

(with apologies to Edgar Allen Poe)

Under a bleak and barren hill

Where cold north winds are never still

And driving rains hath power to chill,

We struggled ‘round a ten-mile pond

In company of which I’m fond,

Mustachioed gent and pretty blond.

At end of day we stopped to dine,

Set up our tent on site so fine,

Secured it well with every line,

Wondering what the next day brings;

When above the wind that sings,

We thought we heard great flapping wings.

I opened up the door a crack,

Then suddenly I started back.

In flew this bird so black,

A giant awful-looking raven,

With its enormous wings a-wavin’

And a look that made us craven;

Settled just above our door,

Which the rude north wind rudely tore;

Made our threesome into four.

A sight! We’d never seen one rarer

Inside our Gerry Himalayer

As the steely skies grew grayer.

The sight made Bill and Laura quake;

But I could conquer fear and spake:

“Tell us, bird, if words you fake,

If human language you can borrow

Of what will we three find tomorrow,

And will it end in joy or sorrow?

What lies out there beyond the shore?

Speak to us above our door!”

            Quoth the raven: “Tuckamoor . . .”

This made us laugh and feel quite cheery

And we thought it oh so merry

To see this bird perched on our Gerry,

In mountain setting so spectacular

Chirping portents so oracular,

Frowning bleakly, like Count Dracula,

Looking darkly as could be,

Grimly warning just us three.

So we gain addressed our plea:

“Lonesome bird, that hath no mate,

Read to us from destiny’s slate!

Tell us what’s to be our fate!

Will we make it back to shore?

Tell us, raven, what’s in store?”

            Quoth the raven: “Tuckamoor . . .”

Three days we walked and did all right;

At further cove we camped that night

In the dim declining light;

En route our constant companion

Along the rim of that dread canyon –

Three musketeers had their D’Artagnan,

We had ours, though more absurd –

Just a black, infernal bird,

Who only seemed to know one word,

Repeated ever, evermore,

As if transfixed from ancient lore –

            Quoth the raven: “Tuckamoor . . .”

The next day we bogged down in thicket,

Really was a sticky wicket,

And we felt we couldn’t lick it –

Dense-grown birch and stunted fir,

Through which no human foot could stir.

It would have stripped a bear of fur!

You would have cringed to hear our shrieks

Below those stark unconquered peaks:

“Why, we’ll be stuck here for three weeks!”

“We’ll never reach our hoped-for shore!

What’s all this stuff which we deplore?”

            Quoth the raven: “Tuckamoor . . .”

That night the rains came back again:

Our chance, we feared, went down the drain

With that damn thicket and all that rain.

The wind grew wild, the thunder shook,

And threatened our old lonesome nook.

But still there sat that brooding rook,

That bird whose look seemed to deplore

Our very being there – and more –

Like some vengeful ancient Thor,

Brooding here above our door;

Caused us to cry out, implore:

“Dratted raven, just once more,

Will it ever cease to pour?

When can we get out of door?

Will we see our homes once more?

            Quoth the raven: “Tuckamoor . . .”

So if your journey to Cow’s Head*

To find if we’re alive or dead,

And whether truth’s in what I’ve said,

Go stand upon a lonesome shore.

And drifting down to that chill shore,

Above the storm’s eternal roar,

You’ll hear these words just as before

Come haunting downward:

            “Tuckamoor . . .”

___ Guy Waterman

* Nearest town to the trailhead.

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