Decision Points in the Wilderness – Erin Lammott

I went out hiking by myself yesterday. You know what that means… yup, metaphors and a blog post. Green Mountain hosted me for about six hours yesterday and shared her views on life. Not going to lie, I was nervous to do a new and longer hike by myself than I’ve ever done alone. So nervous, in fact, that I made a last minute trip to REI to give them more of my money and complete my list of The 10 Essentials. I sent a five page text to my roommates with a description of my route and detailed description of my clothes. That’s all smart. I’ll keep doing it. Just saying… I was anxious. Anyway, I survived! The hike was about 7 miles, pretty vertical, and had about 20 decision points. While I was super thankful for all the trail markings, there were many times I wanted a more detailed confirmation that I was choosing the right path. “Here’s your sign” wasn’t enough. That’s how I’m feeling in life right now. My family, friends, and ESC community have talked through life decisions with me- specifically about choosing a job and location. At the end of the day, I’m making the decisions alone & a bit fearful of choosing the wrong path. I noticed yesterday, I would be pretty sure of my direction, but hesitant. Then trail runners would pass me & I repeatedly would think “Oh good, I’m going the right way.” Granted, I don’t know where they were going, but the company meant I at least I wasn’t all alone & would end up SOMEWHERE. Or the mountain lion would eat them first… either way hahah… *nervous laughter fades*.

In all seriousness, the trail was supposed to be a loop and I almost turned back three times due to fear of predatory animals, light rain, and lack of confidence in my ability to follow the map. After all, known risk is better than unknown risk, right? The first time I almost turned back, was I legitimately spooked that a mountain lion might be hunting me. Two trail runners passed me. I got the confidence to keep trekking. Then, not even .1 miles later, there was the first peak! I should mention that a great motivator for this hiking day, was needing to get away from people for a while. On that summit though, there were tons of people. I honestly don’t know where they came from or how they got there, but wow were they a beautiful sight. Normally, I’m like “Y’all be quiet and go home.” But today, when I was actually scared of being alone in the wilderness, I was so glad to find there were actually herds of people here. It felt nice to be happy to have people sharing the experience. That’s how I’ve been feeling about this service year. It felt pretty wild to leave my corporate job and come out here for this year of “intentional community and service.” What does that even mean?? UNKNOWN RISK. Now that I’m here though, it feels like belonging. I’ve met people who share my interest in spirituality, appreciation for the environment, emotion, and belief in people. I don’t need everyone to have all that, but being in community where it’s respected and understood, is a breath of fresh air. And, like the strangers on the summit, they give me enough confidence to keep going.

Then it was time to move on. Back in the wilderness alone. The most significant decision point was about two miles later. I could either go back the way I came or take a detour through the canyon to cut the actual 12 mile hike short. I had been reassuring myself with a more detailed account of the hike from James Dziezynski’s book. His book covered the 12 mile hike though so the shortcut canyon trail didn’t have much information. If I made the decision to continue through the canyon, then that would take me to the next decision point – Mesa Trail split – which meant my ability to read directions would either lead me home or so far into the wilderness that I would be out there at least deep into the night. For someone with limited food and water and scared of the dark, THAT IS THE WRONG OPTION. I decided to turn back and go the way I came. Before returning, I rested. As I stood up to return, the sun came out, a trail runner went onto the Canyon path, and I lightly thought “you can do this.” So even though I thought I would go back the way I came, a couple small indicators and confidence led me to the canyon detour. UNKNOWN RISK. I started to regret it when I felt exposed and vulnerable to danger in the low lands. (I see why the high ground is coveted in battle now.) I had committed though, so I continued down the path. And, lo and behold, the most beautiful part of the hike! Honestly, it was probably the prettiest scenery I’ve seen so far in Colorado – and that’s saying something. If I had retuned the way I came, I would have missed the most beautiful and rewarding part. Great risk, great reward I guess.

I wish I could say the hike gave me clarity about my upcoming life decisions. It didn’t give me more than a lot of signs. A few reminders to self though. 1) As much as I want to be independent and fine, it’s nice to have company and not always be alone in the wilderness. 2) Unknown risk is scary and can yield great returns. 3) Pay attention to the details because the devil (or angel) is in the details. 4) You are responsible and cover your bases, so have confidence dude. You got it. (Idk, nature just whispered that to me). 5) Yo, nature is pretty rad.

CO Trail