As an Orff teacher, I’m a big proponent of getting off the beaten path, entering territory where few have tread before. That’s were things get interesting, as you feel your way through the landscape, trusting your instincts and following your intuitions. That's mostly how I've lived my life and it has worked out well.
But if you’re off on a hike with your wife, two daughters and two grandchildren in a canyon that you have hiked once a year (Palm Canyon outside Palm Springs), I don’t recommend it. Some four miles into the hike, we somehow got off the path and were faced with a short sheer rock dead-end. Some scaled the rock, I climbed the hill to the left (in my “hiking” Teevas), my wife tried the hill to the right, all of us scrambling up loose sandstone that made it impossible to depend on any kind of solid handhold. The gully on the other side of the sheer rock proved to be a dead-end (my choice eventually led me to them) and my wife reported from the top of the ridge that there were no clear paths to be seen. So we all ended up joining her and deciding to descend back to the path we had come. No easy matter, with all those minor avalanches of stones as we tried to ease our way down, both kids with a couple of moments of panic and the adults wondering what kind of rescue services might be available if any of us actually got hurt.
Through a series of minor miracles, we all made it back to the path we had left, retraced our steps to the post announcing the trails and noticed the trail we missed. The name was familiar and off we went, so relieved and happy to be back on the beaten, dependable path. Again, while celebrating the risk of the unknown in some aspects of life, there are many times when it is both wise and wonderful to follow where others have gone.
One disappointment is that in each of the three hikes we’ve taken there in the last few years, we’ve hidden a quarter under a stone and then tried to find it the next year. With the help of some photos I took last year, I was mildly hopeful we’d find it this year. But with all the missteps we made, we actually never passed that particular point. Maybe next year?
Meanwhile, there was one more tension as some signs indicated that after 5:00 pm, all cars in the lot would be towed. It was 3:30 when we finally got on a solid path, but we had no idea how far it was to the actual parking lot. Turns out it was 1 hour and 26 minutes away— we got to our car with 4 minutes to spare! Eight miles later (impressive for 7-year old Malik!— and 70 plus year-olds Karen and I!), a story to tell and the relief of disaster averted, we were back in the car headed to the hot tub in our Air B&B.
The moral? Sometimes get off the beaten path. Sometimes stay on the beaten path. You choose when each makes sense.