Dealing With Failure

July 09, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Hey Everyone! Hope everyone is doing well this week.  Today I wanted to talk about failures. Yes failures. Everyone has them.  If you don't then your not trying hard enough stuff. Recently I just had a backpacking failure. But I prefer not to think of it as a failure but a learning experience. What were your learning you say. Well I'm a glass half full guy so when I look at a failure I look at what went right not to drone on about what went wrong.  Now failures come in all sorts and sizes. It could be a photography failure. Maybe you were trying to shoot the milky way and it just didn't work.  You couldn't get your settings right .  You tried and tried and just got one shot that looks like it might be OK.  Well that one shot could have been what you learned. Maybe you struggled with settings on your camera and trying to set them up in the dark.  Another lesson you learned that you need to know your camera better so you and do things in the dark.  These are things to work on and try again later.  Let me tell you about a recent backpacking failure that I had.

I had planned a trip in the Uwharrie National Forest.  It was about a 7mile out and back along the Uwharrie  trail.  I would camp on top of a bald mountain.  I have a new tent that I was going to try out and a couple of new items that I haven't used yet in my pack.  I had quickly planned out this trip and it was dependent on the weather.  So at the last minute I pulled the trigger and took off to the trailhead.  Its about a 2 1/2 hour trip to get there and when I did there were only 2 other cars there!  Yay! That means that the trail would be mostly mine.  I was excited!  I grabbed my pack and trekking poles and took off down the trail. But something didn't feel right.  I looked down and I didn't have my regular hiking shoes on.  I brought them but I was so excited that I forgot to change into them. Well I wasn't far from the truck so I went back and changed shoes and started my hike again.  Something still didn't feel right .  And I remembered that I had adjusted my trekking poles down 5cm to use as tent poles with my new tent. So I adjusted them but something went wrong one of them wouldn't lock into place. I did a little panic and kept fiddling with it until I finally got it to lock into place.  Ok everything good to go and off I went.  The trail was beautiful! This is a new section of trail and it was in good shape and the inclines were not too bad. It was very humid because of the rain we had been having the last week or so and it had mist and sprinkled a few times and the leaves were wet.  I was doing some professional sweating!  Sweat was dripping off of the front of my cap. Drip , Drip , Drip.  I took some photo's along the way I was having a great time.  On the approach to King Mountain the tallest on the Uwharrie trail the inclines started being tougher.  Even though they had put some switch backs in the trail.  A switch back is a zig zag in the trail so your not going strait up the hill but at a easer incline.  I had to stop a couple of times to catch my breath but I made it to the top.  This is where the fun stopped.  The section that I was just on was all new trail with the switch backs built in but the old trail didn't do that.  When I started going down King Mountain I was on Older trail and it went straight down hill at a steep decline.  If you have bad knees you know that all of the weight of you and you pack fall on your knees when going down hill.  So I went slow.  My right knee is my bad knee with the torn Meniscus and I had a couple of sharp twinges in it as I was slowly going down when all of the sudden my left knee just locked up and I had a sharp pain that went from my knee and up my inner thigh.  And I couldn't bend it either way it was frozen in place!  I freaked out a little and worked with it and finally got it to bend a little. It was still over two miles to get to a road.  That was a very long 2 miles.  As I hobbled out of the woods all kinds of things were going through my head.  When I got to the road and a trailhead I stopped and thought about my options.  I was less than a mile from my final campsite.  I could go there and camp and see how my knees were in the morning.  Then I started thinking knees are never better the day after you have tweaked them.  So what was I to do?  I thought long and hard it was 2:30 in the afternoon.  I called my son and told him the situation and I was going to have him pick me up and take me to my truck where I would drive home.  That seemed to be the smartest option.  I could have camped out but someone would have to pick me up in the morning.  I called my wife and told her what was happening. But now I had a 3ish hour wait at the trailhead.  So I pulled out my camp chair sat in the shade and played with my phone .  It was hot! and I only had a 1/2 liter of water left I would have to get more. So I packed everything up and found a stream and got some water filtered it from a very shallow stream.  I was doing some hard core sweating now even my calfs were sweating.  I made it back to the trail head sat down in the shade drank some water and ate a little and I was starting to feel better, then it started raining.  Not just a little sprinkle but a downpour. I had just started charging my phone from a battery bank my phone is water proof but the battery bank wasn't so I used my raincoat to protect it from the rain water.  The trailhead sign had a small cover over it so I made camp up under the sign why it rained. I waited for two more hours until my son showed up and took me to my truck.  

So to me this was a big fail at the time. I had never not finished a backpacking trip before.  What happened? What did I do so wrong.  Am I just too old to backpack anymore?   Maybe but here is what I learned after a day of thinking about what happened. That 2 1/2 hour drive was filled with anticipation of what was to come. How many people are going to be there. (last time I went I couldn't even find a parking place) What will the weather be.  So lesson 1 is - Don't get too excited at the trailhead before you set off.  (Trekking poles and shoes) I was doing real well before I tweaked my knee maybe should have drunk more water . I was probably dehydrated and should have added some electrolytes to my water. Lesson 2 drink plenty of water with electrolytes and eat while hiking.  I only factored in distance when planning my trip not elevation, heat and humidity. (I still did well) Lesson 3 factor in difficulty of the hike (elevation)  I also saw that  I made good decisions after I tweaked my knee.  I got to a trailhead (self extracted) Sat down and figured out all of the options and picked the safest one and called for help when I needed to. Lesson 4 keep calm cool and collected if injured getting excited will only make it worse.  Lesson 5- don't be proud call for help if you need it. So I did very well after I got injured. I made sure I was well hydrated after reaching the last trailhead by going and getting more water. I also learned that my equipment that I had with me did well.  The rain didn't get anything wet but the outside of my pack.  I was very fortunate that I had cell phone coverage and could talk to people. Although I do have a satellite communicator that I could talk via text but would have been more difficult.

Although I did not complete the trip as planned I did learn a lot about my equipment and me which was what this trip was all about.  I've learned some things that I need to improve on and some things that I did well.  I do think that if I had not tweaked my knee that I would have been able to complete the trip although I would have been warn out.  I will definitely do this trip again maybe in the fall when its not as hot and humid.  Can't wait!  So until next week get outside!


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