I have been thinking since yesterday about hiking. When one sets off on a day hike they take with them their day pack with some snacks and water. I always pack my binoculars and my field guide hoping to run across some unique species of bird for my life list. I suppose one should pack the first aid kit and some supplies in case of an emergency, but I never think that far ahead. I tend to walk on well traveled paths with good signage and I never travel too far from civilization. I suppose that provides me with a false sense of security.
The last hike I took was to Sol Duc falls with friends. The path is a mile long and well traveled although uneven in places and slick with dampness from the falls. On that occasssion I didn't even take food and water. We were close to our cabin at the resort. We would be back very soon.
However, even that short walk was filled with possibilities of danger. One could turn an ankle on the slippery rocks. One could go left when the others went right and be seperated and lost from the safety of the group. Someone could lean too far over the edge and fall into the water or worse yet over the falls. I planned for none of these emergencies.
Life is often like that. I have often set out unprepared on life's journeys. I didn't have the proper equipment or the map I was given was faulty. I have blindly followed the directions of others, only to find myself stuck at the edge of an abyss or trapped in a box canyon. I have planned for a day hike only to be trapped out overnight, without fire and food, and forced to face the elements alone. I have been afraid and dispaired of anyone finding me.
In the past I have repeated this pattern time and again, but those experiences have shaped who I am. I have made magic with a couple of sticks rubbed together and I have eaten the fruits which Nature has provided. I have learned what I need to carry with me for safety and whose advice I will listen to when planning a trip. But mostly I have learned to trust myself and my instincts. I will stay away from slippery precipices. I will avoid fellow travelers who take too many chances.
I have become my own best guide.