Monday, January 9, 2012

Challenges and Choices

Looking back across the broken footlog at the junction of Bradley Fork Trail and Smokemont Loop Trail - GSMNP
December 30, 2011

This was posted at the start of the Bradley Fork trail, but NOT posted (still scratching my head on that one) at the lower trailhead of the Smokemont Loop Trail.

Broken bridge was at top of map where Smokemont Loop comes into Bradley Fork Trail just to the left of the .5 mile marker. 

I was incredibly excited about this particular trail because every step of it marked new trail for me.  I'd never done any of the trails in the Smokemont section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  So imagine my dismay when I (quite by coincidence) mentioned to a ranger at the Sugarlands Visitor Center (restroom stop!!) that this was our intended destination.   She immediately asked if we were aware the bridge was out.  And she had the pictures to prove it!  Fortunately, her definition of "out" and ours were two different interpretations.  But my hiking bud that day and I are, above everything else, safety conscious and armed with a Plan B, we soldiered on in the hopes that water levels were down enough and the broken (as opposed to "out") bridge was stable enough to cross.  Normally this hike is done counter-clock wise starting up Bradley Fork Trail crossing the bridge and coming back down Smokemont Loop Trail.  There is a reason for this.  Smokemont Loop Trail (much more about the trail along with an elevation profile can be found here) has a sharp climb made worse if the trail is hiked clock-wise.  Our Plan B was to do just that and if we got to the junction and found the bridge impassible, we would simply turn around and retrace our steps.  Total mileage would've been a tad more, but difficulty would've been considerably more.  And at our first break a couple of miles into the hike, we both looked at each other and no words needed to be spoken.  I could tell neither wanted to backtrack.  We WOULD find a way to cross that bridge UNLESS there truly was a stupidity factor involved.  As you can see, I'm here to write about it, so there was no loss of life and I can promise that neither were there any dramatic rescues.  And in retrospect, here are some things of which I was reminded.

1)  Don't focus on something in the future and miss the experience of the present.   Smokemont Loop Trail is a beautiful trail that I could've enjoyed more if I hadn't been so concerned about whether or not we'd be able to cross the bridge at the end.  This is a trail with no other connections so it isn't likely I'll be doing it again.  I wish I had savored the quiet forested beauty of it more.

2)  Rather than immediately giving up on an anticipated action, try finding a plan B as a backup.  My sometimes impulsive nature was to simply hike another trail, but my very levelheaded hiking partner that day came up with the plan B I mentioned earlier.   Plan B could've been a whole different destination, but I'm so glad it wasn't.   That was Plan C!!!

3) Work as a team and depend on each other. There are basically three people I hike with most of the time.  On this day, I was with a male hiking friend from our church and I'm glad.  With the blessings of both our spouses, we are compatible and enjoy hiking together.  He is the more experienced hiker, but yet the total professional in bending to my weaknesses. Plan B was his suggestion, but the thing that sold me was his remark that, "when we get to the bridge, the decision whether or not to cross will be 100% yours.  If you are uncomfortable in any way, we will retrace our steps, no questions asked."  But I also knew that he would never put himself or me at risk and if HE said we could cross, I'd trust him.  He is strong and would help me. 

Here's how the story ends.  Our first sight of the bridge was encouraging.  Water appeared to be down only covering the bridge at the "V" where the break had occurred.  We knew temps were well above freezing, so ice was not an issue.  Truthfully, the first section looked easier to me than if the bridge had been in place.  I think I've written before that I DON'T like these footlogs.  They mess with my equilibrium and this one is known to be "long and bouncy."   My hiking bud suggested he cross then come back for my backpack and offer any help I might need.   He crossed easily, took his pack off, walked back down and met me halfway.   The picture doesn't reflect the steep pitch of the second half, nor does it show that the stability posts were totally useless.  That last 20 feet was no picnic, but I did it.

Taken shortly after the bridge crossing.  Can't you just see the relief and total JOY in my face?

We've all written about choices and we've all written about challenges.  There is no new material here.  But real-life applications are always more dramatic to me than just reading about the fact that I always have a choice and this journey will always be a challenge.  Even though this experience happened just before 2012 kicked in, I wanted to share it with you and in compliance with my 2012 New Year's Mantra seen here..............................

Look for a SURPRISE in every day.
EXPECT steady results from a healthy eating plan and efforts to have a normal relationship with food.
RECEIVE love, friendship, gifts and kindness without question from those who choose to give it to me.
Embrace JOY with every thread of my being.
CELEBRATE my own successes as jubilantly as I celebrate those of others.
SHARE my life, my time, my money and my possessions in creative ways that are new and extravagant.
........................I realized that almost all of those elements came into play as I faced challenges and made choices about whether or not to cross a bridge. 
What "bridge" will you be crossing today or this week?  What are its choices and challenges?  Is there any specific way I can encourage or help you?


  1. I am going to the doctor's today. Which is no big deal. But at one point in my life a few years ago, going to the doctor was a HUGE bridge that I crossed. I am grateful that I was finally able to do that.

    Back to your bridge. That is amazing. The thing I was most interested in is if there was something to hold onto. And then you said 'the stability posts were useless." Wowza, Sharon! I am impressed!

    P.S. Please don't make me cross something without stability posts LOL!

  2. I would also have been worried, so I understand your distraction. So glad you guys decided to go on with your hike though! I haven't done that loop, but it sounds like fun, minus the bridge situation. Awesome adventure!

  3. Ah, Sharon, I like your post about choices more than my own. It reminds me of the "road less traveled", but it is the "bridge less traveled." :D I love your year's mantra! It's beautiful and shares my values.

    :-) Marion

  4. My eyes got big when I saw that rickety wooden bridge... then read that you crossed it!! I'm impressed, too. :-O
    Challenges... choices. Love that. :-)

  5. Sharon you are amazing! So much wisdom in this post!

    I tagged you today!!

    Keep focused!

  6. I LOVE that number one lesson you learned about experiencing life in the present and not just looking for the future. That is so me!! I spend so much of my time planning the future that I do need to enjoy the NOW.

    I just tagged you girl!! Go check it out!


  7. Wow. Thank you for the link to the elevation etc. That was some hike. No wonder you had such a grin on your face. Personally I would have preferred the broken bridge to the in tact bridge up in the air. I like that you hiked with someone not your husband. It is good to stretch with someone not him, but someone trustworthy.

    Your positivity, joy and exuberance for life all her offerings is infectious.