How Do You Figure It Out?

       It’s still snowing in Colorado, which makes be a bit nervous about my summer plans. Most mountains across Colorado have measured 8-12 inches between Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning. And they expect it to continue through the weekend.

       I’ve already pushed my spreadsheeted-hiking-schedule for the 480-mile Colorado Trail trek one month on account of the record-breaking snowpack. If I push it another I’ll risk bad weather on the other end of the trip. But I’m not changing my plans again unless I’m forced to. Conditions are never perfect for anything, especially for outside anythings.

       I started working this particular dream in 2016 after a successful trip up Guadalupe Peak proved my new titanium knees could be trusted. The more I used my knees, the more I resurrected old dreams I’d shoved to the back of my mind.

       I spent the last two-thirds of 2016 reading books and blogs written by through-hikers, making notes and lists. I spread the word among family and friends that I was committed. Then, in January of this year, I started getting nervous about the whole thing. It kept awake at night worrying about what’d I’d eat, could I set up camp in the rain, how would I respond to hiking by myself day-after-day, would the altitude make me sick, what if I got hurt and couldn’t hike out, and, well, was I being stupid.

       And then the snow reports came out and the Colorado Trail Foundation recommended strongly that no one should begin a through-hike before mid-July, meaning not only did I now have something new to worry about, I also had to either rethink my schedule or cancel the trip. Cyndi quickly stepped in and discouraged any talk of canceling. Thank you.

       Once I decided to begin hiking a month later, reversed my direction, and left my finish date flexible, I started feeling better. And by the end of February I was past the anxiety stage and into the workman stage. As in, let’s make this happen; just work the problems. My anxiety always decreases when I start making lists.

       The truth is, for me, planning is often the most fun part. Working out routes, picking gear, all that. I wear Cyndi out talking about my lists and showing my spreadsheets and maps, but I love it. The downside of all that preparation is overplanning and overthinking (otherwise known as overworrying).

       It finally occurred to me that most of my detailed answers, the specifics of the perfect system I was going for, couldn’t be worked out ahead of time. I had to figure it out on the trail.

       All of this is way easier to type than it was to do. It’s taken my entire life to learn how to begin a project with the goal of “start and see what I can learn along the way” instead of waiting until I knew all the answers.

Creative genius Twyla Tharp wrote, “I began to see that overplanning can be as pernicious as not planning at all. There is an emotional lie to overplanning; it creates a security blanket that lets you assume you have things under control, that you are further along than you really are, that you’re home free when you haven’t even walked out the door yet.” (The Creative Habit)

       None of this concern should be a big surprise. Once we finally make up our minds to engage in a dream, that’s when the real uncertainty begins. Analytics like me tend to deal with fear by planning; we may look courageous when in fact all we’ve done in minimize our risk. At some point we have to hoist the pack and start hiking. That is, if there is a path through the snow.


I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

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