Sunday, September 11, 2016

Dragging Friends up Mountains (or not)

I still remember how certain adventures were posed to me, from the other person's filter: It's an easy skin to the yurt. It's not technical. The course has only one hill. The course is downhill. It's  not going to be that cold. You don't need trekking poles. We'll be back before lunch.
Ha. Ha.

Alas, often these descriptions turned out to be utterly wrong, at least from my perspective. I've been stranded on mountains freezing, out of snacks, or terrified. Because of this, I have learned to carefully describe the outing I am taking friends on prior to embarking. I often have people want to join me on my PCT section hikes, and I have to say something like: "This isn't like regular backpacking. There's not a lot of camp lounging. We're going to hike 20 plus miles a day for a week. And we don't really linger anywhere." So far, I haven't brought anyone to tears, but several people have backed out of these excursions.

Expectations, I have found, are really important. I have friends who want to hike about four miles and then lie around camp the rest of the day. I have others who aren't satisfied unless you are crawling back to the car. 

This weekend I sat uneasily in the grass above Maxwell Lake, wondering if my friends were going to kill me. I thought I had described the hike fairly well. It's short but the last mile is relatively brutal. When you are lucky enough to live where I do, and I can go on hikes like this every week, it seems normal. Because look where you can end up:

Happily, my friends steamed up the hill with no problems. Life was good. We hung out on a big rock, soaking up some September sun and eating dried mangos and the cupcakes I packed up for K's birthday. The next day, one of them was heard to say she would rather be doing homework (she's 15) than hiking the steep road we were walking the dogs on, but you can't win them all.
I've heard long distance hikes described in this way: The first third is physical. The second third is mental. The final third is spiritual. I think many adventures can be described this way. First you are puffing up a mountain, wondering why the heck you didn't stay on the couch with the dark chocolate peanut butter cups. The next part of it, you are tired, or hungry, or wondering where the &*^%! the darn lake is, and it's a mental struggle to find your determination. The last part, you learn why you are out there--solitude, silence, the company of friends.

How do you describe adventures to friends? Have you ever experienced meltdowns (yours or someone else's) due to bad descriptions of these adventures?

15 comments:

  1. Since most of my friends are runners, I can usually tell what someone's fitness level is and invite them on adventures I know they can handle. I don't really like watching someone struggle because I downplayed the difficulty.

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    1. I don't enjoy it either, and I feel like some people (women in particular) will not say anything about turning around when they really want to. I wish they would!
      And I'll sign up for the 9 minute mile run, please.

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  2. I used to herd teenagers on 3/4 four day backpacking trips when I was a guide/counselor. We'd only go about 5/6 miles a day. The first day was always filled with grumbling and "hiking is so stupid!" But by the last day most of them were glad they had come and felt like they accomplished something. Watching them take in the views and learn more about themselves made it worth it for me. I was good at nurturing and push them forward.

    With friends I've definitely had some say they would never hike with me because my stories and where I've been sound intense. This makes me laugh because I'm no specimen of physical greatness. I think if I can do it so can anyone. But yes accurate description is vital and making sure your friends have brought the right gear/snacks is key too. I even bring extra because people don't always no what to bring.

    My hubby and I once took a friend on a overnight backpack trip for his first time. We showed him exactly what to pack/food to bring. He showed up with a package of lunch meat and a 6 pack of ensure! Lol

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    1. Ha, I have had friends not want to go with me too because they think I am fast or go too far. I don't know why they get that impression! I really don't cultivate it.

      I once backpacked with an intern who took a full size pillow and a leatherbound Bible. Now, miniature sizes of those I could get, but the pillow took up his whole pack!

      I admire those who can do the work you did with teenagers.

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  3. I have this same problem and have to be careful about which hikes I invite different friends on. I remember one this summer. A girlfriend backpacking trip, no one a newbie. I told them there was this great day hike we could do, only 12 miles, most on the PCT (relatively tame section). We got to where we turned on a side trail and I pointed up to the summit we were headed to and everyone froze. They still went with me (and didn't regret it) but later told me they actually wanted to turn around and go back to camp!

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    1. I hope they still enjoyed it? That's the worst, when people suffer in silence and you find out later they are cursing you under their breath.

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  4. This weekend I finally hike Neglected Mountain, a hike I've wanted to do for several years. I haven't felt able to suggest it to my regular hiking friends, but have finally found someone who will take whatever it offers.

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    1. Ooh I love the name! I have trails like that, which I save for those certain friends.

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  5. Your story reminds me of my hiking buddy John. He's notorious for underestimating the distance of his hikes. And you can imagine how much crap we give him about this - especially since he's a registered professional land surveyor! :)

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    1. Yes there is always the John factor to consider. I have friends like this!

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  6. When we did a series of day hikes the length of the Pictured Rocks NLS on the North Country Trail, the group members always wanted to know "how far." So we told them the trail mileage (knowing they could look it up) and neglected to tell them the extra two or three miles to hike out to a pickup point! They always thought that "10 miles' seemed a little long!!!

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  7. Said (almost)15 y/o was glad she went on 2nd hike. She loved watching Ruby explore new things. Setting the timer was a perfect compromise for her. She got to hike again, and still get home in time to finish her homework.

    As far as your description of the hike on Saturday, I think you description was spot on. You told us it was steep. I knew if you didn't think we could handle it you wouldn't have suggested it. I trust your knowledge. Said 15 y/o also has not quit talking about Saturday's hike. The last mile was indeed a challenge. By that point though she had already told me two or three times that she wanted to go back to the car. We got to that last mile and I told her to pick a point, get to it, take a break, and then repeat. I explained to her that once she got to the top she would never forget the treasure at the end. She stuck it out, made it to the top, and made it down well before me. I am so proud of her.

    Physical, mental, and spiritual is true. My Tri's were always like that. The swim was whole body physical, biking was mental (staying out of ditch, and not getting hit by passing cars), running was my spiritual (I'm in my zone running).


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    1. I'm so glad she stuck with it. That's the kind of thing that makes you strong and determined and confident. As adults we know how to power through but younger people need to learn to overcome what they think are their limits. It's a hard hike, she did great.

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