Game Playing Saves Lives

This weekend we were determined to be foot hiking in New Hampshire, after we spent last weekend car hiking. Our goal was Falling Waters Trail to Little Haystack Mountain to Franconia Ridge Trail to the summit of Mt Lafayette to Greenleaf Trail/Hut and then Old Bridle Path trail back to the car for roughly 8.8 miles, 8 hours.  Well it didn’t exactly go as planned.

We started our hike in great moods, with a fabulous kiosk depicting what to expect in an alpine zone.  We were excited and determined to reach a peak over 5,000 feet. So with a swing to our hiking poles, we cheerfully entered the trail.

The first section to the bridge gave us a false sense of courage.  I know our hiking books warned us that this was a strenuous hike, but we have completed hikes in Connecticut that the AMC has listed as strenuous and they weren’t hard, we could do this.

Our first water crossing was easy and fun.

At this point we had another couple pass us by, as I am a rather pokey hiker. No problem I thought, so I’m slow…but I try to be deliberate and thoughtful of my foot placement, so that slows me down.

The sound of rushing water was encouraging us on. The first of many plunging waterfalls was stunning on the way up.

But the ups weren’t on a simple easy path at the water’s edge; there were huge rocks, boulders that we had to go over, through and around.

This quickly slowed us down to a crawl. We became wet with sweat, we switched our layer of clothes to dry ones.

We then started to ask ourselves if we should continue on.  Next thing we see is the couple who passed us early on the hike, they were coming down.  They couldn’t make it up, didn’t feel it today they said. That along with us going so slow started to concern us.

At this point, I started playing the “scenario game” or the “what if game” in my head.  I have a friend I teach with, Mr. S who is my “ hiker hero.” He has completed the Appalachian Trail, other renowned trails and is an expert on surviving in the wilderness.  At school he likes to play this scenario game with me.  He will give me a scene about hiking and ask me how I would handle the situation, what would I do.  Some scenarios we’ve covered are  if Mike or I get hurt, what would our plan be to get help?  If we are caught in a storm what do we do? Mr. S quizzes me with many scenes and what ifs, then we discuss my decisions, my actions and the possible consequences of them.

I love this game, but really thought it was a game, not something I would ever use.  That day on the trail, I played the game, what would happen if Mike and I got stuck on the trail at night? Did we have our headlamp? No we forget it?  Did we have enough dry clothes to survive the night? No, they were sweat wet and the weather wasn’t such we could dry them. We had no one nearby who knew where we were, so no one would be notified quickly when we didn’t return.  Lastly my body, from all the intense rock scrambling, was hurting, what would happen if I physically couldn’t do this? The answer to that really shook me to my core.

It was time to make a crucial decision to either turn around or continue on. We stopped, consulted the GPS…we had gone almost 2.3 miles in 3 hours with still 5.5 miles to go and the most intense steep trail coming up.  It was now after noon.  If we completed this trail at this rate it would be dark.  Play the scenario game yourself, what answer did you come up with?

We knew our limits and after playing the game, the only safe and responsible decision for us to make was turn around and go back down the way we came.  The entire way down I was thanking Mr. S for being in my life.  If he hadn’t started playing that game, I would have been too proud to turn around and therefore might not be writing this blog.

A little game playing never hurt anyone and in this case a weekly dose of the “Scenario Game” may have saved us.  So a huge thank you to my hiking mentor, Mr. S!!

The Details: 5.6 miles for 5 hours.  Just did the 2.1 miles of the Falling Water Trkail out and bac.  It was .2 until you reaching Falling Water Trail.  Be of strong body when doing this, well rested. Some sites recommend doing just the Falling Water Trail by the waterfalls, I would recommend that.