I was hiking in the Hemingway Wilderness Area of Idaho a few days ago, and I came to the first trail junction just five minutes from the trailhead. The primary intersection is unmarked, and the decision point is crucial if one wants to head towards the proper drainage and the adventure they planned. For years a signpost existed here, and somebody or something removed it. Now the lack of clarity creates a moment of anxiety for those who have not previously traveled this route. There are signs further up both trails to direct users to the appropriate peak or alpine lake.
We might think we have set up our fans for success, but sometimes we are so busy marking the summit and iconic features that we forget to check on the trailhead. We overlook the first few steps because they are so apparent to us. How might we learn from those encountering us for the first time? How might their experience help us be better wayfinders?
I find switchbacks essential to the journey. They allow me to continue at my cadence while gaining (or losing) the elevation I need to reach my objective. They also provide perspective and an opportunity to contemplate what comes next. Even when we travel away from the summit, there is a sense of certainty that we are on course.
How might we see bends in the pathway as confirmation of our progress and wayfinding? How might we embrace directional change as intentional instead of failure? How might we celebrate that the greater the difficulty, the less likely we can move directly between the departure and arrival point?
Is there a difference in our mindsets when we commence a journey that is an out-back route versus a loop? Do we prepare or even pace ourselves differently? When we know we are going to retrace our steps, we benefit in both the experience of the moment and the knowledge of the terrain we will face on return. When we take-on a loop, each turn in the trail reveals new information and a fresh challenge. A loop may benefit our sense of adventure and exploration.
What if we consider out-back options when we want to test new techniques or equipment? It provides us greater flexibility if our travels do not go as planned. What if we commit to the loops when we are strategically aligned?
How might our desire to innovate thrive based on our route choice?