Lookout For The Unexpected

Yep, that did not go as expected.

The entire past week, well since Tuesday, I have been planning for this weekend. My boyfriend, some friends and I were all supposed to go up camping and dedicate Sunday to a nice 14-mile hike to Shoe Lake.

I had all the maps ready, memorized the route we would need to take and took time to prepare in case there was any snow, because there would probably be snow fields to cross.

Sometimes a plan do not always go accordingly, however, and you learn you have to be flexible in more ways than one.

This is where we were supposed to go:

Lets fast forward to Sunday morning. All of us did go camping, at a beautiful and secluded site on Memorial Day weekend none-the-less. We woke up later than expected Sunday and it took us all a while to get moving and ready. By the time we were ready to leave it was almost 11 a.m.

We reached the Shoe Lake trail-head just before 11:30 a.m. and snow was everywhere. The snow melt was nowhere near what I had been planning on, and the danger of losing the trail increased exponentially at this point.

So much for that plan.

Onto Plan B! We took off back towards our campsite, but our new destination was Jump Off Joe’s Lookout trail-head. We had no idea the length of the trail or the elevation, all we knew was the views were supposed to be incredible.

First things first, upon arrival, the mosquitoes were horrible up there! The second the car doors opened at the trail-head, it was like an army was just sitting there waiting to attack. The four of us quickly packed up and drenched our bodies in bug repellent until our skin shined in the beating sun.

mosquito swarm.jpg

This old trail was not very clearly marked. We were randomly following old jeep trails that zigzag all across the mountain, hoping that the one we were on was the correct one. These trails were not flat either.

They climbed and climbed and climbed. They were covered in water (perfect, more mosquitoes), ripped up by elk tracks and the soil was loose making it hard to climb. This was especially true for two of my friends who did not have the best hiking shoes or poles to make the ascend any easier.

The miles kept ticking by. We had passed several quad riders and eventually got to what looked like a ridge-line that the trail followed just below. Our hopes were slowly beginning to lift, thinking our destination was right around the corner.

But it never came.

Eventually my two friends had to stop and take a break in an open meadow, just below the ridge-line. My boyfriend and I kept going, wanting to figure out how much further until we reached the lookout. Really, we couldn’t go up much higher. It has to be around here somewhere.

About a half-mile after departing from our friends we rounded a corner. In the distance, on a whole other ridge line, was the lookout. As the crow flies, it was roughly a mile away. Considering we would have to trek down and then back up to the next ridge, the lookout was over three miles away and we were already almost 3.5 miles in. There was no way we would make it there and back before sunset. Plus, our friends were already fatiguing quickly.

Disappointment crept through me as we trekked back to our friends. Shoe Lake was a dud and then this hike was appearing to be a fruitless effort as well. All that time spent planning and all the energy put into climbing who knows how many feet appeared to be a waste.

Getting back to the clearing, we couldn’t find our friends. Great. First disappointment and now anxiety that our friends had gotten lost washed over me for a split moment before I heard one of them whistling for us on top of the ridge-line.

Picking my way up through the meadow, all I could think about was breaking the news to the two of them that we wouldn’t be seeing those gorgeous views of Rim Rock Lake or the Goat Rocks.

This is what we were supposed to see from the lookout:

However, as I crested the ridge this is what I was greeted with:

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It was spectacular! It was so much prettier and expansive than the images taken from the lookout post. The sun was pleasantly warm, the breeze cool, there were no mosquitoes, and everything just seemed perfect from on top of those flower dotted rocks.

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While we were sitting up there, admiring the views and recuperating from the hike up, something dawned on me.

Sometimes you don’t always get to exactly where you want to be. Whether it’s because you do not have all the necessary resources or maybe the timing just wasn’t quite right, sometimes, things just do not go according to plan.

Sometimes, however, you happen onto something even greater than that final destination if you take a moment to stop and breath.

This hike taught me an unexpected lesson. While it is always a good thing to have some sort of plan in place, make sure to take a second to enjoy the views. You might come across something even greater than what you were planning for. It’s those surprises that make everything worthwhile.

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So, next time you think you’re not on the right track, take a moment to look around and admire how far you have come. You might be quite content with that, at least for the moment.

(It also taught me that mosquitoes are dumb and will still attack you even with an entire can of bug spray on.)

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