Or, How to Save the Day when Everything Goes Wrong on the Trail
You all see the pictures on the blog. They’re beautiful, sunny, spectacular. Some of you might even read the write up, usually a rather blissful account of how beautiful such-and-such trail is, and oh, you should really visit (after all, it’s only 20 miles RT! – just kidding; the longest dayhike on the site is only 17 miles from start to finish). But what you don’t see is the disasters. Face it, we all try trails that don’t work out. Sometimes it’s our own fault, or things just didn’t go as planned, or the view wasn’t what we expected, or the weather had a mind of its own. Sometimes the road is closed, or the hike turned out to be 5 miles longer than the Falcon Guide said. But what to do when things don’t go as planned?
I guess it would depend on the situation, the issue, and your options. But here are a few ideas of how to turn an Epic Hiking Fail into an Epic Hiking Success.
Hiking Fail #1: Someone Gets Hurt
It’s what we all fear: someone getting hurt. Thankfully, we’ve never faced a serious injury, just things like cuts, bruises, scrapes, and sprained ankles.
How to Save the Day:
If the injury isn’t serious, help the person back to your vehicle. From there, we’ve either taken shorter hikes or just done overlooks for a few days (or driven a distance to allow for recovery time). A few times (like when visiting the Moqui Marbles in Utah) the person stayed in the vehicle and had a wonderful time just chilling out while the rest of us were hot and sticky hiking over hill and dale (or more like over slickrock and washes).
Hiking Fail #2: The Weather Isn’t Good
How many times has that happened to us all?
How to Save the Day:
You have a few options: #1) Hike anyway (like the Owl Point or McNeil Point Trails on Mt. Hood, or Pyramid Peak in the Flat Tops of Colorado), #2) Wait it out (I never did post about hiking the Trail of the Cedars in North Cascades while we waited for the rain to stop so we could hike Maple Pass), #3) Turn around and find something else to do (that’s what I should have done climbing Grays Peak in Colorado), #4) Go somewhere else (we ended up in Canyonlands after enduring the snow for a few days in Colorado hiking Raspberry Mountain and Horsethief Falls; I recall driving to California because the weather was so bad in New Mexico, and another time ending up in Wyoming and South Dakota because the weather wasn’t cooperating on Mt. Baker – another time we literally ended up driving toward the Great Unknown because the temperatures had risen so much we couldn’t stand to stick around the Southwest), or #5) Go somewhere that the weather doesn’t matter (like a cave or a sea coast that might actually be prettier in the mist and rain).
Hiking Fail #3: The Trail isn’t What We Thought
You know, you’ve hiked as far as you want and you still haven’t found that epic view they said was here somewhere, or the destination is far less than what you’d been led to believe, or the trail literally doesn’t exist… or at least not the way you’d hike it. Or maybe you took the wrong trail (like the first time I tried to visit Owl Point and ended up on the Vista Ridge Trail to the Timberline Trail instead of fantastic views of Mt. Hood).
How to Save the Day
Depending on how far you are from your vehicle, you could just turn around, find a new trail, and hope for something better. When the trail ended up being too long and we hadn’t yet reached the Lower Saddle above Garnet Canyon in the Tetons, we just had to turn around. (I still have that destination on my bucket list for some day!) Or you can keep pressing forward (my preferred approach, apparently – that’s how we discovered Sahale Arm (probably one of my favorite views ever) after being highly disappointed with the views from Cascade Pass, made it to the top of White Rock via a tangled avalanche chute (really, no one was voluntarily going back down that way, even if another way was longer!), and kept walking around Horseshoe Mesa even though we were already at the 13 mile mark and nowhere near the trailhead… and the trail was only supposed to be 11 miles!). If you take the wrong trail, laugh at yourself and enjoy the hike, then come back another day… I did that with Owl Point (
post coming soon – one pic here) near Mt. Hood, even though the second time wasn’t much better for views. Yep, I’ll have to come back another day…
Hiking Fail #4: We Forgot the Camera
That actually only happened once, in Chiricahua National Monument. You can’t blame us, either: we had to catch the shuttle at the visitor center, and the sliding van door fell off as we were about to take off from the picnic area… You might say we were a bit distracted after that. (Actually, we later impressed our cousin to no end when it fell off (again!) in her driveway, and two of my brothers hopped out and simply lifted it back onto the track…)
How to Save the Day
Throw up your hands and smile, use a smartphone, or use someone else’s camera. That last one is a lot more likely now that we take no less than 5 cameras on most hikes…
Hiking Fail #5: We Ran Out of Food or Water
How many times did we forget lunch before we learned our lesson? (I’m still waiting to go back to Saratoga Springs and actually bring lunch this time!) And how many hikes did we run out of water before contriving a system where we can actually carry enough to get us through even 10+ mile treks?
How to Save the Day
Turn around! I mean it. You can’t live in the wilderness with no food or water. Also, carry water purification tablets (we keep them with our first aid kit) just in case.
How do you save the day when an epic hiking success looks like it’s about to turn into an epic hiking fail?
Note: This isn’t legal advice. It’s simply what has worked for us in the past. Enjoy it; I hope you find it useful!