I have a confession to make: I turned around on a hike last weekend. I know, I know. I’m supposed to have grit. I take a certain amount of pride in the way I can tough things out, stick with it, grin and bear it. But on Saturday, after three-quarters of a mile, I called it quits. Even though it was hardly a hike, just a nature walk through the woods. Even though I’d seen photos of my friend doing it the weekend before. Even though I really wanted to stand at the base of the waterfall we were heading for, feel the thunder of it clearing my head and coursing through my veins. Even with all of that, I still said “let’s go back”. I had a real moment of panic later that night, wondering if I’d suddenly stopped becoming the kind of person who could be counted on to do whatever, if it was only the people I used to surround myself with that made the kind of adventures you had to suffer a little for worth it. But no, I realized I just have a low tolerance for ice. Ask anyone, they’ll know I don’t do ice. I don’t like ice skating, I’m nervous around frozen lakes and rivers, I strongly distrust all manner of icicles. And that hike we quit was all ice, the entire trail a long stream of frozen water. We tried it with snowshoes, we tried going off-road around the ice, we tried sliding. I fell once, managing to twist and land on my front, and even that wasn’t the final straw—it was the huge downhill that looked like a recipe for broken bones.
Listen, I’ve never had a cast but I feel sure I wouldn’t like it.
So we turned around, even when it pained me to do so. We promised ourselves we’d find a new hike, further up the mountain, where the snow would be better. And you know what? We did. There was no giant waterfall, no crisply cut stream through unbroken fields of snow. But there was snow, not ice, and that was a really good start. There was deep thick forest all around us, the kind of forest you could imagine winter fairies flitting through and there were enough trails in the area that the parking lot crowd dispersed, making it so that I could let Cedar run and run through the snow off leash, barreling in up to his chest. Best of all? We made a new friend, Snowman George. About a half mile into the snowshoe, we saw a looming shape backlit by the sun ahead of us on the trail. As we got closer we realized it was a giant snowman, complete with hat, scarf and carrot nose. What a delight, what magic! So unexpected, and yet so wholly at home. I loved it.
And I wouldn’t have gotten there if I’d stuck to my guns and pushed through on our original adventure. Here’s to calling it quits in favor of greener pastures, at least every once and while…and always when there’s ice involved.