I really like the concept of being an explorer, but what does that mean, these days?
I went hiking this weekend with a group of self-proclaimed explorers; to them, it meant venturing into the unknown in good spirits and taking whatever was thrown at them in equally good spirits. Unknown wasn’t quite literal, of course. We were on a well used trail and encountered a lot of other people on our hike. But very few of this group are experienced hikers, and nobody had ever done this particular hike before, and so nobody quite knew what we were getting into. I at least knew some folks who’d done the trail before, so I brought extra food and water and was assuming we’d be out for quite some time.
The trail is a loop that took us a good 7 hours. I think most of the party would have been glad to be done at around the halfway point; certainly that’s when people started running out of water. We are apparently all foodies, though, because almost everyone brought extra food to share with the group, which I thought was rather cool. Also, nobody shied away from trying my weird pickled cherries. Explorers indeed!
When folks started running out of water, I was pretty sure the hike was going to become a lot less fun. Miserable people are miserable to hike with, after all, and the trail was pretty strenuous. I do hike pretty regularly, and go backpacking several times a year, and the trail was kicking my ass pretty hard; we hiked on Saturday and now, on Monday, my legs are still so sore that it hurts to move, and I think I was probably one of the more out-doorsey people in the group, so I wouldn’t have been surprised if morale had tanked and people had been unhappy and grouchy. But nobody was. We got quieter, but everyone seemed to remain in good spirits, and certainly nobody was overtly grouchy. Most people seemed to be making an effort to be cheerful and encouraging, and there was much talk of explorers not really knowing what they were in for, but making a solid go of it anyway.
I have been on hikes that were not nearly so strenuous where people got grouchy, and it was extremely unpleasant. I was expecting some people to get grumpy, because it would have been completely justified, and because our group was so large it was basically inevitable. I was all set to be encouraging and helpful and cheerful and do my best to keep morale high. Evidently, so was everyone else. I don’t think I’ve ever done a hike with people who were in such universally good spirits, and I know I’ve never been on such a strenuous hike with people who were in such universally good spirits. It was an entirely lovely experience. I am so impressed with the group. The hike was longer than advertised, hotter and much more steep than expected, and yet, everyone seemed determined to have fun, and that made all the difference.