The summer after my freshman year when I was almost 15, I led a group of high school girls and their counselors into the mountains.
The older guides were not available, so somehow my map and I (the kitchen prep-girl) were trusted to take guests from the city into my childhood haunts above 6000 ft.
The first leg of the trip went fine.
But on Day 2, a mapping mistake and one wrong turn added an extra 4 miles, requiring these already reticent, non-camping teens to double the day’s mileage.
The counselors rallied their spirits, and we made it to camp just before a downpour, descending to the lake at sunset in a drizzle and prepping our individual dinners under hastily pitched orange pup tents.
I felt so bad. I imagined (hoped) that maybe the challenge was good for them. That they grew from it. But even so, I had unintentionally made them suffer, hiking extra miles on sore legs. I had risked their safety in rain and oncoming darkness.
I had been proud to show off the mountains I so dearly loved, but I had caused hardship. I grieved for my loss and theirs — in case I had clouded their potential for hiking joy.
I have to be honest and say I’ve seen this play out many times over my life. Taking folks to the edge. Making mistakes on tricky journeys — in the woods, in our career, in life.
I wish I could get all the turns right, navigating the most direct path to the goals. But alas, life doesn’t seem to allow that. Maybe the best I can do is notice and point out the little blessings on the new path. The change in vegetation, the wildflowers, the creek we wouldn’t have seen were it not for the second canyon climb, the sunset hitting the lake in the dusky rain. Maybe somehow that is enough.