The Benefits of Being Prepared

(I started this post back in May (yes, there was still snow on the mountains in May) and I never published it. So here it is.)

I’ve written before about how being prepared is so important and makes the rest of life so much easier. It’s why I do the work that I do, and it’s what I practice when I’m not at work and am off on my adventures.

I went up to New Hampshire a couple of weekends ago to hike. Despite the warm weather and a forecast of 80 degrees, there were reports of deep snow above 3000′. This required extra preparation. In addition to my standard spring gear of hat and sunscreen, I also had to pack my micro-spikes (small crampons) in case there was ice or crusty snow and I knew I might want snow shoes so I lashed those to my pack as well.

As I started my hike, the ground was bare, if a little muddy. Some people in sneakers passed me as I trudged along with my winter supplies and for a moment I wondered if I’d over-prepared. Then we hit the snow – it was a monorail of packed snow down the center of the trail, solid and slick.  First I put on my microspikes, and the sneaker-wearers gazed enviously at them as they slipped along. Soon the snow turned to 4 foot deep slushy, mashed potatoes and we began sinking knee and hip-deep. I was suddenly very glad to have brought my snow shoes.  I put them on and scooted along the top of the snow.

Finally at the summit, the sun was out and the rocks were bare. Winter footwear came off and my hat and some more sunscreen went on. One of the women up there had torn her shorts when she fell into a post hole and was trying to figure out how to fix them. I had a bunch of duct tape in my pack (some of which I had already used earlier in the day to cover some hot spots on my heels that were threatening to become blisters) so I offered her that as a temporary fix.

Some days I hike and use none of the “extra” gear in my pack. On this trip, it was nice to use so much of it (and be able to share it with others) lest I become complacent and think that I can leave it at home. And now that we are coming back up on winter hiking season, I need to stock my pack with things I might need for that weather – my emergency blanket, head lamps, extra gloves and socks, layers of outerwear, something to build a fire with… I’m going to need a bigger pack.


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