“I thought I was going to die.”
That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but it was a thought at the time.
I wanted to be strong, but I was having a really hard time and didn’t want to do it anymore. This lead is not as attention getting, but it is more accurate.
A Day Off
What started out as a simple exploratory bicycle ride on a series of dirt roads turned into an unpleasant adventure. I didn’t realize it for quite a while, but I had missed a turn. A turn I didn’t see. (I should have had a map.) The result was a nice, smooth, fun and wide gravel decent which turned into a smaller road, which turned into a broken road that was washed out in a few places, which turned into a trail, then a rocky trail that was too rough and overgrown to ride on. then the trail turned up. Yes, I had turned back to explore other roads to make sure this was the right one, but they were dead ends.
I found myself on a deer trail leading straight up the mountain. I realized that the road I missed must have been at the top of the hill before that fun decent. “Be strong, Glenn. You can get through this. You’ve been through much worse. You can do it.”
The trail progressively became overgrown with vegetation closing in on me and then turned to kept going straight up a hill as steep as stairs with loose stones. Yes, I considered turning back, but I knew what was back there and I rationalized that it was shorter to go continue moving forward. (I absolutely hate going back. Always move forward.) I rationalized that If I kept moving up, I would eventually come to the road I had planned to be on, or the top of the mountain.
It turned, eventually, out that I was right, though I didn’t know that at the time. What I did know was that I was heading in the right direction and I was bound to come to a road eventually. I’ve been lost like this many times – not quite where I want to be, but pretty sure of where I am and knowing which way to get out. This was all very settling to my mind.
It was really easy for my thoughts to spiral out of control under the circumstances. Like this:
“I’m lost, I don’t know where I am and nobody else knows where I am. I’m on a deserted trail that doesn’t look like it gets used more than a few times a year, by humans. It could be weeks before somebody finds me if I can’t make it out. I’m tired. I’m tired of doing this. I don’t want to walk while pushing my bike. I came here to ride my bike not push it. How long till I get to the top? This mountain is going on forever. I’ve been walking for 90 minutes, will this nightmare ever end? I keep slipping and tripping. I just want to be home. I’m not having fun anymore.”
Yes, all those things, and more, were swirling around in my head but I countered these dooming thoughts with the following rationale:
“I have plenty of light left in the day, it’s not raining, I have enough food and water to last several more hours, I’m in good health, I haven’t really traveled very far (about 4 miles), I’ve been through MUCH worse, I haven’t seen any signs of bears or cougars, I’m still on a trail and this trail must go somewhere, and I can only go up so long before I come to the top of the mountain or a road.”
Eventually I came across a couple of empty beer bottles and knew I was near a road. (scary, I know.) I scurried up the side of the embankment and pop, there I was on the dirt road I should have been on all along. Hindsight is awesome. After looking at the map when I got home I saw where I went wrong and also determined that my travels through the rain forest really wasn’t that bad. It seemed really tough at the time and I could have easily fallen to the ground crying at the impossible circumstance I was in. Fortunately my rational side is strong enough to push out those silly knee-jerk emotional responses that befall me (and other people) in a challenging situation.
Make The Best Of It
Experience has taught me that I am much stronger than I think I am. No matter the situation, I’ve always been able to persevere, under my own power. While climbing up that hillside in the wet tunnel of vegetation, I was amused at the torrent of negative thoughts that wanted me to roll up into the fetal position and cry. It really came from the fact that I didn’t want to be in that position (walking my bike lost in the forest) in the first place. I just wanted to ride a planned loop on mapped dirt roads and be back to my car after about two hours. But, plans were changed for me. My choice was to either make the best of this change or lock my knees and resist.
Many of you might say I should have turned back. Perhaps, but from my perspective at the time, I had already been that way and knew that I’d have to climb a pretty big hill. I didn’t remember seeing another road, so I may have had to back track all the way to my car – and I HATE going back.
Onward and Upward
I could see now and then through the trees the mountain peak I was working to get to and I was heading in the right direction. I have a good sense of direction normally and the view of this peak confirmed this. Plus, I HATE going back. I’m a forward motion kind of guy. Stagnation and backward motions runs counter to every hair on my body. So, onward and upward I went and I’m stronger and feel more fulfilled because of it.
Good Mental Exercise
A day later, I feel stronger and more alive because of the ride. I’m still sorry I got lost, but I’m pleased with my decision to continue on. I would have felt like a quitter and a failure if I turned back and retraced my route to the start. Like exercising the body in the gym, or the mind with crossword puzzles, exercising your resolve against adversity makes you stronger. The efficacy from this can be transferred to other areas of your life.
So challenge yourself and allow yourself to be tough. When you do, make the most of it now and in the future. You will be stronger for it.Stay Informed