On Tuesday, the day of Tuesday Treks, Brenda and I let our enthusiasm lead the way. Just a couple of days earlier, the first set of road barriers were lifted from the highway we use to access the trailheads, giving us access to hundreds of more hiking choices. Each year in Alberta, many of the secondary roads leading through the foothills into the mountains are closed for a number of months in the winter to protect the wild animals. Some still remain closed and will do so until June 15. But the one blocking access on the road we most often use, was opened on the 15th of this month.
During the winter months this doesn’t really impact us – the hiking trails would have far too deep snow on them for any hiker to navigate. At this time of year, the warmer days show up and the trails lose much of their snow. We were thrilled to try a different route. Brenda had hiked Prairie Mountain previously and had told me of the spectacular views from the top. So even though we heard the prediction of ‘strong gales of wind possible’, and ‘chance of precipitation, especially at higher elevations’ we looked back on our string of absolutely perfect Tuesdays, drew a completely non-scientific conclusion that this one would be no different, and decided to head out early to avoid those slight deterrents!
Before you reach the non-scientific conclusion that we are careless hikers, let me assure you, we are not. We did understand the weather, we were prepared (mostly), and we did have a good escape plan. Even with all of this, I was still surprised at the ground conditions in which we found ourselves. I had downloaded the map, and Brenda had mentioned the first three kilometres were a very steady climb. Noting the elevation gain I’d seen on the map, I thought I was good to go. However, just steps off the trailhead, we found ourselves on rocky ground, climbing and climbing. There was no ice or snow, but there were endless rocks and boulders to navigate and we really had to work (and huff and puff) to make the climb. We had no sooner finished patting ourselves on our backs for how our hiking over the winter had improved our fitness for this challenge, when an ‘older’ man, and his dog, Bobo, breezed right on past us!
The wind at the top was brutal. Snow had begun to fall and there was only the faintest outline of what must have been a spectacular mountain vista. We paused only long enough for a couple of photographs, and to reunite with Bobo, who delighted in stealing our hats and mittens. We had chosen a less steep descent and thought once we were in the safety of the trees, we would feel less of Mother Nature’s impact. We had not banked on the amount of snow and ice still in the forest, so we found ourselves on dangerous footing coming down. About a third of the way down, the forest floor cleared making the hiking much easier. Except for a few terrifying gusts of wind, this part was a breeze (so to speak).
In hiking as in life, there is no avoiding rough roads.
The question is, how do we deal with them? On Tuesday, we did a good job of preparation. However, even with that, we were not able to accurately predict the exact nature of the roughness of the road. We both own two different sets of crampons, grips for our boots. Both of us left them in the car. On purpose. We had not anticipated the snow and ice in the forest. Those would have been incredibly useful. They wouldn’t have made the descent shorter or less ice covered, but they would have given us some extra confidence.
On Wednesday, I had a rough road of a very different nature to navigate, and on Thursday, yet a different one again. Wednesdays came in the form of a challenging decision and follow up set of actions I carried out on behalf of the Board of Directors of the charity I work with. Thursdays came in the form of a diagnosis of someone I dearly love.
If we choose to live a life that includes adventures, passions, meaningful work, cherished friends and family, we are very likely also doing so with the understanding we will encounter some rough roads. Even those who chose to narrow their scope of life to just a few walls and less encounters with the world, cannot escape the rough road.
This week I was reminded of a few things about how to manage rough roads. First, take your grips; don’t leave them in the car. While hiking, the grips give us a firm foothold. So too in life. In real life it’s our values that keep us grounded. Our values of course are our template for our life. They inform each step and rarely lead us off track. Let them be our solid foundation. In addition, each of us have things in our backpack we keep for ‘just in case’. Take them out and use them. Call a friend, wear a power suit, do your homework, be prepared, turn on your four-wheel drive, treat yourself to your favourite music or food. Do whatever little thing is required to help you get a good grip on the rough road.
Second, talk and listen. On the trail we talk to make sure we let the bears and cougars know we are nearby, and we watch for signs they are nearby. When times get tough in life, it’s good to talk to sort out our thoughts, and we need to listen for subtle things that might keep us out of danger or make our travels easier.
Third, look for Bobo. Bobo was the dog who passed us on our ascent. We met him and his owner at the top where Bobo happily stole Brenda’s hat and my gloves. We laughed so hard we almost…. sorry, too much information. Bobo is everywhere. When we can find the humour in a situation, it really helps distract us from the rough road.
Finally, after we have created a foundation of our values, used the right gear, and leaned on our friends and family, and found Bobo, we might need to reach inside ourselves and ask if we are willing to stay on the rough road. Brenda and I could have turned back. However, we knew there was a view up ahead we wanted to see. Even when we realized there would be no view that day, we still wanted the feeling of the view; we wanted the feeling of accomplishment, of completion, and of sharing the journey. Sometimes when we reach inside ourselves, instead of saying, ‘You can do it’ (which is a really good thing to say!), we might instead ask ourselves, ‘Who am I becoming?’
Every rough road gives us a chance to become who we strive to be. It’s really tough during the huffing and puffing part to remember this. But the more we practice, the more we gain confidence to know each rough road we navigate, smooths the next one just a bit.
I wish for you smooth travels this week. I also know, I’ve found some of the best views after navigating some very tough roads.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘Who am I becoming?’
Elizabeth is a certified professional Leadership Coach, and the owner of Critchley Coaching. She is the founder and president of the Canadian charity, RDL Building Hope Society. She works with corporations, non-profits and the public sector, providing leadership coaching. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for all sizes of groups. She has particular expertise in facilitating Strategic Plans for organizations. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to navigate rough roads.