I’ve started a new category in my Scouter blog. “Coping with…”. Initially I was using the category to collect narratives that narrow in on my protracted attempts to recover from a foot injury and generally mediocre fitness and name it something banal; Coping with Ailing Feet. Then, I thought, I should expand it to include the root cause, age. Of course that won’t be broad enough to cover every complaint. Ergo the open ended “Coping with…”
A few weeks ago my son, my daughter, and I headed up to Franconia Notch to hike up to Lonesome Lake. To be honest, it’s a great beginner trail. I was adequately challenged but not overwhelmed and once we reached the AMC hut I was ready for more. Understand, I passed NO ONE on the way up though many passed me.
Every step required me to consciously place my foot. I found that I needed to lead with the injured foot and stepping up worked that leg hardest. Fortunately the elevation gain is not significant. It’s a little less than 1,000 feet in just over 1.5 miles. The footing is really pretty good. Especially for such a heavily traveled trail.
My point is to say that I would have regarded this as an easy trail, in the past. Now that I’m no longer “growing up” but am well into my “growing down” I appreciate that I was challenged by a “beginner” trail. I need more of these. A month earlier I joined up with another troop to hike the Starr King trail in hopes of reaching my first NH 4,000 footer, Mount Waumbek. This is an elevation gain of over 2600 feet in just under 3 and 1/4 miles. For me this was a strenuous hike. Note: This is a very wet trail. On our trip the wetness was compounded by recent heavy rainfall in the region.
Returning to my point, I appreciated that I was able to feel challenged yet successful hiking up to Lonesome Lake because I did not reach the summit of Starr King, much less Mount Waumbek. On that hike I was too aggressive in my pace. I allowed myself to be driven by my awareness that I was slowing the team significantly. I did not wear the ideal footwear for such a wet trail and I overestimated my readiness for the adventure.
I’m not sure how far I made it up the ascent. I would like to say I was more than 3/4 of the way up the summit of Starr King but I am not confident of that. I did not bring an altimeter and it was nearly impossible to take any map bearings. I’ve not calculated my pace on this type of terrain so I was unable to use dead reckoning either. Based on what I saw on the map and my surroundings when I turned back I know I made it over 1/2 up. However, the damage was done. Once again I failed to reach my objective.
The trip to Lonesome Lake boosted my enthusiasm and helped me realize that there’s a path to recovery ahead even if I have to take smaller steps and do so more slowly than in the past.
Life lessons: (1)You won’t reach all of your goals. (2)You really do need to reach some of them. So, on the Lonesome Lake Trail I achieved a goal… and I did more. We elected to return by way of the Cascade Brook Trail. This caused the overall distance covered to reach nearly 7 miles. In addition, if the Starr King Mountain Trail is the wettest I have traveled, the Cascade Brook is the most “root laden”. Truly, I can’t remember expending so much effort navigating roots… ever. I mention this to express how truly my optimism improved. The decision to more than double our trip took me to my limit but did not diminish my growing confidence. It also helped me to have a concrete view of my current limitations and gain a sense of how I might evaluate future efforts.
Meanwhile, the overall goal of this blog is to reflect, generally and specifically on Scouting. This hike gave me some new insights.
Scout lessons: (1) I am not physically (at present and perhaps forever) capable of accompanying our troop on challenging activities. (2) Other, healthier adults are needed. As a Scoutmaster this is a bitter pill to swallow but it offers me renewed insight into the true nature of leadership. If, as we claim, we wish to instill good character in our scouts through development of skills, service, and leadership then what better means is there than to demonstrate a key aspect of leadership: delegation.