Not so long ago, my husband and I hiked Wind Mountain in the Columbia River Gorge. It was a short hike, but it gained enough elevation that is was quite steep in some places. In other places, it was clear there’d been a slide and the trail was narrow. Not so many people hiked this way and we enjoyed the solitude and silence to slowly work our way up the ridge.
We meandered along and shared the thrill of working for the view, letting life unravel and loosen the worry lines of our faces. The dogs were a big help. They happily scrambled along wishing we’d go faster. They sniffed, wagged, and wiggled their way to the top of the mountain. The view from the top that day was stellar, overheated valley cooled by a strong breeze, sun reflecting off the Columbia River and the glaciers of Mt. Hood. Glorious really, and so we drank it in.
On the way down the mountain, it occurred to me that being married to a man with children is a lot like hiking. There are a few things about stepping with each foot that you either learn from experience or you’re lucky enough to find an experienced hiking partner who tells you of the pitfalls to look out for.
First and foremost, watch out for the banana peel effect. There are some things that make the trail extremely slick. If it’s wet the trail will be slick, most especially the rocks and roots that stick up out of the trail so avoid stepping on those rocks and roots. Go around them. Loose pine needles will also make the trail slick, especially when there is elevation. If they are dense, you can keep your footing best by not lifting your foot very high. Get into a shuffling gait and slide your foot forward.
When it’s very dry, even bare dirt is slick, so use the exact opposite strategy you would use when it’s wet. Use the tops of the rocks and roots that stick out of the ground to break your fall. When dry, they are the grippiest parts of the trail and offer the chance for solid footing.
Balance is a big issue when hiking. And, the laws of physics that apply to skiing also apply to hiking. If you sit back on your heels, you’re going to fall. True in skiing and true in hiking. You want to balance the weight on the front and back of your feet, sometimes even leaning more forward.
Finding balance means that you step with one foot in a way that allows you to maintain the stability of your footing. If the place you step doesn’t feeling stable, you can easily reverse and take your foot off that place and reset to get better footing. The best way to keep your balance is to focus on the foot you’re standing on when you take each step. When you can perceive that foot is solidly placed, you can step with the leading leg easily and thoughtfully. This way, you can go forward or backward and keep your balance.
Moral of this story: resist the urge to throw yourself headlong into anything, whether it’s hiking down a hill or marrying a man with children. Take your time to keep your footing. Consider the terrain and use the elements you find within the environment as your tools. Remember that what is good footing when the trail is wet is completely different when it’s dry. Consider reversibility and the fact that you can, if you’re watching closely, decide on one course of action and then change your mind, without losing your balance and without getting hurt.