Guidelines for Hiking (and for life)

Just shy of the Veteran’s Day weekend, I had some business in Grand Junction, so I decided to take my beat-up pickup and my beat-up old truck camper for a walk and make a long weekend out of it, do some cold camping out in the central Utah outback called the Swell, the San Rafael Swell for long.

I’d read about the Wedge and the Little Grand Canyon, so I took the longest stretch of innerstate in the country without services westbound out of Green River.  My Delorme map of Utah and the website I consulted to get to the Wedge were both wrong: the Ranch Exit to get there was 131, not 129.  From the exit at 129, I followed the signs on the well-graded dirt road for about an hour through winding canyons bedded with cottonwooded streams (pssst:  Utah’s dirt roads are almost always in good shape).  I drive for at least 45 minutes from the nearest pavement.

Eventually, the road rises and I found myself in higher country.  I set up camp right along the Little Grand Canyon, which lived up to its name.  The San Rafael River cuts a winding gorge through sharp cliffs and monocline stacks that tilt every which way.  A long ridge marks the western horizon, running north to south as far as my eyes can see.  Snow dusts its higher reaches.

I orient myself by the late autumn sun, which will set sometime after 4:30.  I strap on a water bottle and hike through the P/J toward a promontory. The sun floats in a clear sky, warming the breeze on my cheek.

Above the broken blocks of spectacularly large stone across the Little Grand Canyon, far southern horizons beckon.  A distant range of snowcapped peaks means either the La Sals or the Henry’s, two isolated ranges in the intermediate neighborhood.  Based on distance and their southerly heading, I decide they’re the Henry’s, whether they are or not.  Geological denial in this context holds no real consequence other than being wrong on paper.  Screw it.

I wander the canyon rims far out to another point to the west.  A gigantic column of white smoke mars the view in the valley north of here just outside a small town called Castle Dale.

Whenever I hike and wherever I camp, something inside says aaaah when it’s in the right place.  My heart knows.  My soul knows.  It translates relative beauty into a deep peace.  It has little to do with the objective look of the place.  It has everything to do with the subtle: the play of light; the lack of people; the heights; a view of endless plains limned with the sharp-cragged relief of escarpments.  This place lacked those attributes.  Living in the Four Corners, I’ve become so spoiled.

That night, pickups and campers droned down the road long after dark, piercing my fragile sleep.  I left early the next morning, wandering for a place which really lay only inside me.

My truck went on to Castle Dale, headed south on Highway 10 through Ferron and Emery.  I’d grown to embrace these small, small Mormon settlements; pristine, always well-watered, a testament to the ingenuity of irrigation practice of pioneering generations past.  The fields lay umber this time of year.  Beyond them, the friendly, lush hem of cottonwoods sewing in the bucolic serenity of the town and its hinterland.

Not long after this string of hamlets, I landed I-70, still in its loneliest state of No Services, Next 100 Miles.  I slid under the overpass, where Highway 10 converts to highway 72 by the magic convention of naming and numbering.

South of the interstate, the land rises, and my insides begin their long, heaving sigh of relief and release, the reservoir of stress building over weeks –  nay months – from 13 hour days and money worry and people choler.  The insides, they always knew when they neared the Place.

The P/J grew thick into dark green quilts over the rising hills.  My Delorme gazetteer couldn’t do it justice, seemed to lose the ability to represent in two dimensions the subtle topology I stopped atop at a turnout.  The Henry Mountains, often obscured in this region of Utah by the San Rafael Reef, stood so alone, with skunk bands of snow on the high peaks of the Ellen group, northernmost of the range.  The La Sals just bumps in the background east.  Aaaaah.  I had to land camp.

My truck dropped down into a sweeping valley, bald and wide.  I hadn’t seen another vehicle for about an hour’s drive, always a good sign that I the Place was getting closer.  A crisp, diamond lake glinted the sun as if it were metal, a knife’s blade shimmering out from a fold in the valley west of the highway.  The sun reigning without the competition of clouds in the naked, near-winter sky.  A sign mentioned a campground and I veered hard left onto a Forest Service road.  I was never clear on the road marker.  It said FS Road 205.  The Delorme disagreed again.  When in doubt, trust your eyes.

Above to the east, low mountains rued with virgin snow and alpine forests.  Here lay the high country of the Aquarius Plateau.  I headed on up to Riley Springs.

A murder of hunters, sheeted in orange – hell even their ATV’s were orange – roared down the road as I groaned up it in my silver Silverado.  I hailed the lead rider, and old guy with a broom mustache, orange and thick.

“You mind if I ask you a couple questions?”

“Not at all!”  He seemed local, and happy to help.

“Any bears up here?”  Even though, given the cold and snow and age of the season, bears might long since have denned.

“I’ve never seen bear up here.”  The rest of the four-wheelers caught up to him, younger guys who seemed to regard me with a friendly suspicion, maybe as an interloper.  Hunters have short seasons and do a lot of work to prepare for their hunts.  They can wait a long time for their tags.  I don’t blame them for being a little territorial up in mountains this time of year.  Who wants to shoot a stray and strange dude?

“Thank you.  And I’m guessing from your dress that the hunt’s on.  I should be wearing my orange.”

“You bet.”

“Can I get to the top, or will the snow stop me out?”

“Ah, you can get about another three miles up.  Then it gets bad.”

“Alright.  I guess I can just pull out anywhere along the road.  Thank you very much.”

“Can I ask what you’re doing?”  He wanted to know what the hell anyone would be doing up in the mountains in winter, unless he was hunting, too.

I went into a long explanation about how I’d been in Grand Junction for work and how I was from near Cortez, trying to sound remotely local (oxymoron).  He mighten’ve not heard of Cortez, Colorado, since it was so friggin’ far away, kind of like Loa, Utah, the nearest town down this highway, hadn’t been known to me prior thereto me consulting the map 20 minutes prior thereto.

We shook hands and I rattled up the road, hitting snow patches beside deep mountain ravines thick with aspen and spruce and fir.  A couple miles ahead, I hit the turnout for Riley Springs trailhead.  The way I lived my camping life, I was minutes from hiking down the Great Western Trail, toward Elkhorn Campground four miles down trail.

This place had pushed my aaaah button.  It was deserted, buttoned down for the winter.  Might as well have had a sign that said:  Humanity not allowed.  Only Mike.  Mountain is for him this weekend. It reminded me of an early January trip where I had Indian Gardens practically to myself at the kneebend of the Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon NP.  You had to suffer a bit, but then you could have the whole world, savor the solitude.  You may freeze your tocus off, whatever a tocus is.  Yet when a Place pressed your aaaah button, freezing didn’t feel like suffering.

I hiked down the Great Western Trail.  The hunters, long gone, had laid trail with their four-wheelers.  I trudged sometimes silky, sometimes crunchy snow a few miles around Hens Hole Peak.  This was always clarity time, a quiet in which the mélange within the mind self-sorted to a pristine cobble of truths, where one knows what’s important and what ain’t.  I made up my mind about a few things

I left the Great Western once it seemed to take me down into a valley, a wide valley, clean of town and tree, across which in remote distance rose the dissected plateau called the Aquarius, a vast pincer of highland which rose  to a greater altitude than just about any other in North America.  With jagged snowfields that seemed about to break like ice, the Aquarius seemed more mountain than plateau.  The difference was one of geological semantics to me: mountains rose to uneven heights, one peak higher against the other.  Plateaus dissected and broken by sheetwash kept to the same height from right to left along the horizontal plane.

I scrambled up to Hens Hole Peak, slipping in the snow here and there.  It occurred to me that there were guidelines for hiking: my own guidelines and those written down in books for survival, or posted on NPS signs.  I was breaking the prime directive: Thou shalt never hike alone.  I actually broke another guideline with one foolish act: Thou shalt always tell a third party where one is going, and when one shalt return.

And I also had my own guidelines, for hiking, and climbing and scrambling, that I’d enacted over the years.  Though I was not an expert, not a technical rock climber or even a bona fide backpacker anymore, these guidelines had kept me alive and injury-free in my forays down into canyons, up onto mountains, and out in the deserts.

Some of those guidelines came in handy now, as I scrambled up a cold mountain ankle deep with snow.  My life depended upon them right now, and my life depended on them more generally.  What was the difference between life and life?  Life was here and now, what I needed to do to survive this and the next moment.  Life was all the stuff with which I had a hard time coping back in the world: office and internet; the boss; finance; romance.  Ultimately, life and life merged.  Life depended on the present moment, while life represented the cumulative sum of all those moments.  Right there on that mountainside, I decided to review these guidelines for hiking, which were relevant to how I lived when I wasn’t in the mountains at all.


  1. One Step at a Time – Literally

Often, when I’m exhausted and nowhere near the summit, or so hot that I have to shade under a lone juniper or halfway up and halfway down a treacherous boulder field, I just focus on the step I’m taking.  Then I rest and plan the next step.  This takes away fear.  Fear is usually based in the future, on what might happen.  If I’m concentrating on what is happening, my attention is crammed tight into the present moment.  This pushes out fear.

Often, when I slip or fall, it’s because my mind is completely somewhere else.  So focusing on the step I’m taking accomplishes two objectives: (1)  it prevents accidents, and (2) it lowers anxiety.

There’s a third benefit:  sometimes, I’m just dog tired and thirsty and hungry and hot (or cold), and I think of how far out on the limb I’ve climbed.  Breaking the journey up into small parts makes it more manageable.  Think about it: if you had to move 10 tons of gravel from one pile and toss it into a hole, how would you do it?  You could only do it one shovelful at a time. Human beings are so constructed psychologically that they have difficulty handling more than one sunup to sunset at a time.  When even a day seems like too much to tackle, try living for the next five minutes, or even for the next five moments.  One step at a time.

  1. Stay on the Path

Oftentimes, I’m tempted to stray from the trail, in life as well as in the hike.  Most problems with hikers in need of rescue occur when they leave established wilderness trails.  I usually hike on trails, especially in dangerous, remote environments in deserts or in terrain where one can become easily lost.

Life is attitude, value and belief translated into action.  What happens to a migrating bird that loses its heading?  What happens to a bee that loses its colony?  In both cases, the animal is likely to perish.  It’s the same with us.  If we lose our heading in life, we wander into danger and trouble and this often results in our need for rescue.

I can change my course if I choose, but I need a path.  Life without mission is a purposeless exercise.  It leads to futile wandering.

There are exceptions to this: When the end of my hike is in sight, it’s okay to scramble a bit.  When I am sure I won’ t become lost or stranded, I can bushwhack off trail.  Otherwise, I stay on the path.

  1. Sometimes, It Seems as if There Is No Path, but There Is

I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve been out on hikes, in forests and deserts and mountains, and it seems as if I’ve lost the trail.  My head tells me to worry, to be afraid.  The voice that speaks first within me, often loud and clamoring, starts to take charge and tells me to do this and do that.  I always know which voice it is because it’s motivated by fear.  It almost always steers me wrong.

If I get quiet and listen to the voice which speaks second, it almost always tells me not to worry, not to fear.  It tells me that I’ve not lost the path.; that if I look carefully, perhaps retracing my steps awhile. I’ll a see cairn or a faint and subtle trail that I missed because my mind was wandering into the Not Here, Not Now, to the There ’n Then.  I call that TNT.  Living in the There ’n Then seems to cause as much trouble as explosives do.

Here’s proof that I’ve never lost the path.  I’m still here.  I’m writing this.  I have not died out there in the wild or decided to give up and live a life in the wilderness as a hermit because I couldn’t find my way back.  Sometimes, all I need is faith in the path.  Sometimes, that’s all I have.  Putting one foot in front of the other, I’m never really lost.  My head may tell me that I am.  But nothing in my life has ever happened for no reason.  If I believe that, I’m never lost.

  1. Follow the Footprints of Others

When the path seems to dissolve into the sand and rock, I look for footprints.  That does a couple of things: (1) it lets me know that I’m no alone, and (2) it tells me that my journey is a doable adventure, wherever I’m walking, since someone else has been there.  That gives me hope and it gives me direction.  Often, by following someone else’s tracks, it leads back to the trail.  Most of the time, it is the trail.  Think about it:  a trail is just a well worn footpath that somebody made  before me.

Sometimes, up in the mountains in the snow, all I may have to go on are animal trails.  I can step into them.  It makes my journey easier.  It helps me judge the depth of the snow so that I don’t punch through.

There are some exceptions to this.  Some people don’t know where they’re going.  They create social trails that don’t lead where I want to go.  Doing the  social thing isn’t always doing the right thing.  The guideline I follow is that, when the path is not clear, I follow the footprints of others for a reasonable distance.  If their tracks appear to go nowhere, if they seem to go in a direction in which I do not wish to travel, I backtrack until I can find the trail again.

  1. Sometimes, All You’ll Have to Follow Are the Tracks You Laid Down on the Way In

Despite your best efforts, you may find that there is no trail.  In that case, you’ll need to find your way back by a different method.  You’ll need to find your own tracks (easier in snow), and find your way back to your starting point.

In journeys like these, your own past experience proves your best guide.  Your head might tell you one thing:  You’ll die of cell phone withdrawal now that you’ve lost the trail!  Your experience usually tells you something different.  Usually that first voice, the voice of fear, speaks through what your mind tells you.  It might tell me that I’m hopelessly lost, that hiking out to this area was a dumb idea, and that I’ll be sorry now, won’t I?

Yet my history will most likely contain a select few experiences which serve as references. I need to go back into the most analogous experience I had in my own past through which I’ve navigated successfully.

  1. Never Hike Alone

This is the hiking injunction I most frequently break.  The reason is simple: I like to hike alone.  I make no excuses for it other than that.  I often bring some index cards and a pen, or a book of inspiration along with me.  I find a rock or a log or a ridge, and watch the sun go down.  That’s my ritual.  Later that evening on the Aquarius Plateau in mid-November at about 9,000 feet, the sun set early beneath the ragged escarpment of Parker Mountain far across a valley.

The only time I can see the sun move across the sky is when it breaks over the horizon or sets behind it.  Its last yoke, the fraction of the photosphere seen last, disappears so fast.  I never see it move through the remainder of the unreferenced sky.  Yet it seems to move so slow once unmoored from the horizon, like a store balloon drifting up into the sky.  Now, as it touches the mountaintop, its last golden drops seem like a molten form I all the more appreciate as it withdraws its fire.

Before it fully downs, I watch its reflection in the aspen stand on the edge of camp, a forest white-barked and black-footed.   Knots like lizards’ eyes.  Here and there, crisped leaves hang on stubbornly to twigs.  It’s so cold, so still at just under 10,000 feet, that the black tongues don’t waggle.  The bone-hued bark mirrors back the gold standstill.    

I hear a noise, and turn to glance at Geyser Peak across the road.  When I return my eyes to the stony forest, the alpenglow has faded from the trunks and limbs.  It leaves only the pungent aspirin smell of the aspen, and the names of lovers carved with cupids’ hearts into the soft, papery bark like relieved epitaphs of tombstones.  You can’t see the sun abandon its embrace of a forest anymore than you can see the aspen grow.  This is why I hike alone.

  1. Sometimes, You’ll Have to Hike by Yourself.  Sometimes, You’ll Choose to

Choice is one thing, necessity quite another.  Yet choice exists always within the narrowing crevices of necessity.  I neared the summit of Hens Hole Peak, a little over 10,000 feet up.  This time of year nearing the solstice, I lost light so fast.  Too much mud and the slip coefficient for standing on this tall, steep heap necessitated that I descend toward camp.  The long way, the safer way, dictated that I pitch back down the tracks through which I came.  Fun and speed permitted me to crash down the side of this mountain, with the summit of Geyser Peak as my bearing for camp. This route I chose from within the narrowing jaws of necessity.

Sometimes, you’ll hike alone because no one will go along with your hair brain, barely laid plans.  I’ve found that, when it comes to my deepest held principles, it’s always better to go it alone than to compromise.  This may mean a life of solitude, without pair bonding.  I’m reading some Rilke and Rilke and other lonely poets on this sojourn of solitude.  Most of these mystic men (and an equal number of women), chose their lives alone.  Sometimes, that’s given us by a deeper aspect, by the individual director of life which writes each of our programs from a hidden and unknown altar inside.  This narrative can only be seen and understood in retrospect, never moving forward from the start of the journey, or it would defeat the purpose of the great game which is each of our lives.  The payoff is solitude.  That’s heaven, and, depending on the aspect from which one views the hologram, it can seem like hell.  You’ll have to work that out on your own, man.

  1. Tell Someone Where You’re Going

I usually call my mother, who is in her 80’s now, and recite places like Little Wild Horse/Bell Canyon; Goblin Valley; Temple Junction/Goblin Valley Road to Temple-Junction-to-Hidden-Splendor-Road.  One tires of tiring one’s mother with such place names.  So I just say I’ll be gone a couple days.

The truth of life is that, though you need a heading, if you know exactly where you’re going and exactly how it is you’ll get there, and this happens all the time?  It’s probably pretty boring.  It may be someone else’s map you’re following, either for their own lives which you think you need to imitate, or their map for your life, which they think you need to emulate, or both.  The plan of your life is not to tell you all the plan in specific detail, only the general outline.  Life must fool Itself into forgetting that it knows the ultimate outcome or destination.  So It uses the ignorance of your conscious mind against you.  Think what it would be like if the only TV show you could ever watch was Gilligan’s Island, over and over again.  Soon, such viewing would become hell.  (BTW, I always preferred Mary Ann over Ginger).

So, don’t always know where you’re going.  It defeats the purpose of the plan. That may sound like a contradiction, and so it is.

  1. Often, You Won’t Know Where You’re Going Until You Get There

This is the corollary that flows from Guideline # 8, immediately above.  The intuitive self always knows where it’s headed, but it often chooses not to inform the surface consciousness.  You may ask ‘why,’ but that would defeat the purpose of the game which chooses to play itself through you.  The choice here is simply to embrace the playfulness that comes with not knowing.  You know how it all ends: you get back to ‘Go’ safely.  You’re not sure whether you land on Boardwalk and end up paying your opponent $2,000 rent for his hotel along the way, or get all that free No Parking money instead.

Plan, but don’t plan results.  The journey is best enjoyed when composed of an admixture of careful planning and spontaneous reads.  When I embarked on this journey a couple days ago from Grand Junction, I had a well-stocked camper, bound for a well-researched Little Grand Canyon trip.  I had no idea what a hen’s hole was, much less that I’d end up the only man camping on its flank dozens of miles south of my original destination.

       10.    Oftentimes, a Shortcut is Really a Longcut in Disguise

I first learned of the existence of this guideline when I tried to cross Bright Angel Creek on the floor of the big Grand Canyon as a shortcut back to Bright Angel campground, and ended up detoured by thickets of willows in boulder fields along the creek.  Took me twice as long to get back to camp.  The path is the path for a reason.  Some pretty smart people took time to plan the route.  Switchbacks switch back for a purpose.  A path up a mountain may bend away from the summit and dip into swales before doubling back toward the summit.  It seems like a big waste of energy to travel up and then down and up again.  I can usually see that it eventually gets to the top of the mountain, but only after I’ve summitted the peak.  Only then I can see the long-distance logic of a winding trail.

The problem with one-step-at-a-time (Guideline # 1) is that it does not afford the big picture view one needs to sustain faith.  Yet the path is the path for a reason.  Sometimes, I can only know and have faith in that.  Therefore, avoid shortcuts.

Now, here I am, thinking this very thought I have learned the hard way more than once out in nature, from the time a tempting shortcut stranded me on a short but steep English mountain, to the time I marooned myself on the shoulder of a mountain in Columbine Basin in the San Juans of Colorado.  However, you’ll notice that I’ve titled this ‘guidelines’ for hiking, rather than outright guidelines.  Guidelines tend to proliferate in our culture to the point of strangulation.  If you spend a lot of time pondering the nature of guidelines, you’ll probably come to that conclusion.

Guidelines recognize more breathing room to experiment.  And so, on a false summit near the real top of Hens Hole Peak, I spotted my campsite and made a beeline for it.  This I did after some years of experience in a variety of habitats scrambling, doing dumber things than this.

So from the peak of Hen’s Hole, I crashed over logs and skirted the edges of aspen forest.  I dared the horrible stickers of some such stickle plants.  I cursed myself more than once.  And I made it down in good time, prior to the sun’s demise behind the Parker Mountain.  Sometimes, you need to break your own guidelines.  It’s a good and liberating thing, as long as you don’t die.  As long as you know from that deeper aspect of self that it ends well.  As long as your experience (and not your brain) tells you that you’ve done this species of stupid thing before.

          11.     Test a Rock or log Before You Step on It for Support

This guideline is not always possible to follow, especially when you’re clambering down a mountain.  When that’s the case, I try not to place all my weight on the untestable assumption of a rock.  If it looks unstable, it probably is.  Yet sometimes, I have no choice but to step out into the untestable.

On my way home from the Aquarius Plateau tomorrow morning, I’ll have a chance to test this exception out.  I’ll drive through the western region of Capitol Reef National Park.  At mile marker 77 off Highway 24, I’ll turnoff at the sign for Panorama Point/Goosenecks.  I’ll drive the mile down the dirt road and take the short trail to Sunset Point.  I’ll disregard the bench (the kind you sit on, not the kind you walk on), at trail’s end and keep walking until the headland pinches out.  Cliffs of Wingate sandstone will tower above the badland of the Chinle strata.  Ledge rock will seem like toffee, so breakable.  I’ll have to chance the flatrock despite all the structural failure around me.  Mass wasting was made for this gooseneck canyon chiseled by Sulfur Creek.

I see the headland finally end as a promontory 800 feet over the meager crick that carved it.  I’ll gambol and gamble over chancy sandstone, encountering first one false peninsular ending, then another.  Sulfur creek drops down to a gooseneck finish on my right.  The Henry’s rise in the warming sun due east ahead.  I make out that the winding scarp meanders for miles to the east, until the tortured wall of Capitol Reef ends my vision.

When I was a kid, I’d walk the plank to the end of the high dive.  My teeth would chatter and my arms would goosepimple, half from the cold water I’d just climbed out from, and half from fear.  I used to wait at the end of this high dive, waiting to jump into the deep end of the pool.  I told the Universe:  You take away my fear, and I’ll jump.  The Universe whispered back:  How ‘bout you jump, and I’ll wipe away that fear. 

You need to test the rock for stability if you can.  There’ll be times when you can’t.  Deal with it.

          12.       Veg Over Earth and Rock.  Earth and Rock Over Snow

I learned this scrambling up and down mountain slopes.  Avoid scree and boulder fields, since you’ll tend to slip and cut your legs.  By the way, wear long pants when you hike, and don’t go up Vulcan’s Throne at Toroweep at Grand Canyon in the summer with shorts and cheap hiking shoes.  You’ll regret that.

What I reasoned (and what ended up being true for me) was that vegetation tends to (1) grow on less severe slopes, and (2) stabilize said slopes.  Take a look at a mountain.  The less vegged areas are either above treeline or along steep angled sides.

Yet I learned that rock beats snow up or down a steep mountain slope.  So the key for me is to trust living things (grasses) over sturdy things (rocks), but sturdy things over fluid things (snow).  Same holds true for the rest of life, I s’pose.

           13.       Don’t Grab on to Dead Things – They Almost Always Break Off in Your Hand

I’ve had to learn this guideline again and again over the years, as my head told me that a dead branch or a dead limb or a dead bush was just fine to grab onto.  A heavy, dead limb growing from rock looks thick and sturdy, gray as stone and seemingly as strong.  However, the vast majority of the time, it’ll break off in my hand and down I’ll go.  So my experience runs contrary to my mind’s better judgment.  Why?

Desperation can color my judgment.  When I’m about to fall, I’ll grab onto anything that looks sturdy.

But I think there’s another reason I keep falling from the dead limb gag.  It offers the illusion of stability.  In life, I’m tempted to rely on something that appears attractive and strong and nearby and safe.  Examples include money, status, being well-liked, success, a beautiful body.  Yet all of those things are dead on the inside.  Think about your body.  The part that’s on the outside – the skin and hair and nails – is the dead part.  Why do I always fall for the idea that that beautiful body, in myself or another, will save me, will help me out in the end?  This is a hard one for me, and I keep falling for it, literally out there on the trail, and figuratively off trail.

             14.     Accidents Happen When You’re Either Cocky or Unaware

A retired engineer I know who’s hiked the world says this, too.  Think about it: unless an accident of any kind was caused by some other blunderer, every slip and fall, each fender bender, and any broken limb you sustain is caused by your own lack of awareness or cockiness.  An old biker I know says that every time he’s suffered road rash, it was when he thought he was all that and would never wreck again.  He’d get cocky, and WHAM!  Same with me.

I’m either thinking of something completely unrelated to what I’m doing –

I’m distracted – or I’m arrogant.  In either case, I’m not paying attention to what’s right in front of me.  For me, hiking is meditation.  It forces me into the moment.  That’s why I do it.  When my mind is someplace else, I get careless.

Arrogance is similar, and that cockiness is a subset of unawareness.

With that written, no matter how hard I pay attention, I usually slip on a rock or wobble an ankle on each hike along the more primitive trails.  That doesn’t mean I’m doing anything wrong: it means I’m human.

             15.     You Don’t Got Bragging Rights Unless You Make It Back Home in One Piece

Whenever I’ve discovered an especially rarified spot, I’m tempted to crow to myself about how no one else could find this and how brave I am or how high up I am or whatever.  You read stories or even see movies about guys like this:  they end up armless or lifeless.  I don’t want that kind of fame.  So I always tell myself:  You don’t got bragging rights until you make it back home.  That inoculates me against cockiness.  It’s good to have stories to tell, but I don’t have a story to tell unless I make it through the story.

There.  I’ve given you 15 guidelines.  In most book or articles like this, you only get 7 or 12 of these kinds of things.  So consider yourself lucky.

© 2014 by Michael C. Just