Saturday, December 14, 2019

The tyranny of planning

TC and I email back and forth.
"Passage 19 is out. The trail has been destroyed by fire."
"You need 4WD to get to the end of Passage 19."
"Passages 20 through 23 look beautiful, but what about snow?"
"Maybe we can skip over 19, and 18 but that would take two shuttles..."

We debate, and it becomes clear that section hiking is way more complicated than just doing the whole Arizona Trail at once. But we have jobs, and I'm also not convinced I want to section hike another entire trail. To do that, you have to be incredibly committed, focusing just on that trail, and walk sections that are...well..not so great.

So maybe not the whole trail. But perhaps I will become more like my friend Beekeeper, who because life is short, chooses trails that are "cherry picker delights". Thus the debate raging over the interwebs, while TC and I try to find someplace to hike in February.

What it looks like here. It's beautiful, but I will need a mid-winter break. My young retired friends are going to Hawaii for two months. Me? A week in Arizona.

Losing Callie has reinforced that I need to live a life of adventure, as much as I can. Who knows how long we have left?  I'm reminded of a friend who refused to plant trees at his house, reasoning that he hated his job and planned to move soon. Ten years later he was still there, hating his job and with no trees. Another friend wanted to travel, but said he wanted to wait until he had a partner. Thirty years later, he hasn't gone anywhere.

When I hiked the PCT, it became apparent that there were two main types of people. There were the planners, who created elaborate spreadsheets of how many miles they would hike each day, how much water they would acquire at desert streams, and where they would send resupply boxes. Then there were the Wing Its, whose mantra was "the trail provides". (Interestingly, it often did) These people rarely consulted maps, had  no plan beyond the day in front of them. Useless to ask where they planned to camp that day. The result would be a confused look, and a "I'm just going to walk until dark."

I fall somewhere in the middle, mostly because my work schedule dictates it. If I had a free six months, it might not matter and TC and I could just fly to Arizona and figure it out. We go back to the guidebooks. We email anyone who might know the answers, who could possibly predict snowline in February. It's all kind of ridiculous, but it is the fate of a section hiker.

Are you a Wing It or a planner? Do you cherry pick the best locations?


  1. Once you become a highlighter it's tough to reverse course. I'm curious what you come you with for February as you know that's one of my challenges also.

    I think I was such a planner in my career I became the opposite once I gained freedom. I still like to be prepared but love the flexibility of doing what comes naturally.

    1. I think we have a plan of passages 16-18 since we have a generous offer to drop us off, but we also realize that snow could hamper our plans. Want to come with?

    2. Maybe if I happen to be nearby. My notes show lots of wildflowers in early March.

  2. I can t wait to see the report of your upcoming hike...wherever it may be! Jason and I have always said we want to do the whole AT. But because of commitments (such as work..yuck) we have defaulted to talking about section hiking the whole thing....but in the meantime we just get out as much as possible!

    In terms of planning. I am the planner. Lists and spreadsheets. Jadon is by the seat of his pants. Together we turn out to be middle of the road (which is probably the next way to be!)

    1. I am thinking of section hiking parts of the AT. Not all, because I am picky. I think section hiking is the way to go honestly. Too much of one thing isn't good.

  3. I'm really not a planner. The whole reason I got into endurance racing is the opportunity to have someone else plan an intriguing adventure for me. And my resistance to planning has kept me procrastinating a few longer and more complicated trips that have interested me for years, like the Colorado Trail. But I do really try to focus on details where I think it matters, because investing a ton of time and money into an endeavor and then having it fail for a stupid reason is the worst.

    1. I'd argue you do a ton of planning around your endurance events because might die. But I see what you mean. I also want to do the Colorado trail, but feel overwhelmed by the difficult resupply.

  4. Have the best adventure wherever it is!


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