Don’t Forget to Bring a Map!

In an attempt to make the most out of the last few weeks before the snow starts falling, this weekend I headed to Rocky Mountain National Park to spend a night camping in the back-country. While I have spent a good amount of time on the Eastern part of the park, near the town of Estes, I have had little experience in the western region. So this weekend I decided to hike to Timber Lake, and spend the night at Snowbird back-country campsite. Because the drive to the Western part of Rocky Mountain National Park is longer than that to the Eastern part, me and my hiking partner Rachel started out before the sun was up early Saturday morning, reaching the back-country office right when it opened at 8:00. Because this was our first time in this part of the park, and this area is much less traveled, we were careful to stay on the trail and follow our progress on a map. Although we did venture off the trail from time to time, to grab water from a stream or get a better look at a moose and her calf that we spotted only a few yards from the trail, we did our best to stay on track.

Despite our best efforts, we did wander unintentionally from the trail a few times, one of which honestly scared me a little. Although we were by no means in the middle of nowhere, it was a little unsettling to feel completely lost in a totally new place. I was thankful to have my map and a trusty hiking partner with me, and was relieved (although I was reluctant to admit it) when we found the trail again. There is no denying that it is fun and exciting to stray from the path and explore wilder areas. I would even argue that it is important to stray every once and awhile, as long as you have a plan for getting back. Coming from personal experience, getting really lost is not fun.

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As you might have guessed, this lesson is true not just for hiking, but for all aspects of life, especially academics. Making a goal for what you want to gain, both in college and afterwards, is important and your advisors are a great resource to help you with this task. While your plan will absolutely change from time to time and you might not always stay on track, it is always nice to have a plan. Now I will not sit here and tell you to follow a plan step by step all the way through college, because that would ruin the experience. I would encourage everyone to be creative and find a path that works for him or her, to travel, take time off if they needed or study abroad. Finding your own way is a part of life, and necessary for growing as an individual. Just make sure you have a plan for getting back on track one way or another.

After our short excursion off trail, we managed to find our way back and up to the Timber Lake, which was more beautiful than we could have imagined. I completely agree that sometimes, the journey itself is the destination. But, accomplishing your goal and making it to the destination you set out for is pretty amazing as well.

-Will