In Praise of Adventure

Ruth and I have been traveling a bit lately, spending quality time with our daughters in decidedly urban settings.  Dsc_0596We’ve really enjoyed it, but it has cut into our hiking schedule, so this week I’ll be writing a different sort of post.  Not a political commentary, though there’s plenty of material there these days.  Img_3370For the fourth time, the bill to protect state parks funding was on the House calendar today, and for the fourth time the House bogged down before getting to it.  At least the Legislature has finally, after hours of debate, decided which crimes actually constitute moral turpitude.  Failing to protect state parks funding, I’m sorry to report, is not one of those crimes.

We’ve been participating, in our modest little way, in Moxie Beautiful’s #BlogSpringFever April blogging challenge, in which really ambitious bloggers post something every day in April, typically on a given topic for each day.  We aren’t really ambitious, so we just post once a week, but our posts usually happen to have at least a tangential connection to the topic of the day.  Well, today’s topic couldn’t be better: something you’d play hooky from work to do.  Because we are Responsible Adults, we don’t play hooky, but if we did, it would be to go on an adventure!

My uncle was fond of telling the story of how his medical school classmate was fretting over how he would approach the Dean to get the required recommendation to secure his residency at the hospital of his choice.  During his meeting with the Dean, the intern sat nervously while the Dean looked over the list of programs into which he had been admitted.   “Which one do you prefer?” asked the Dean.  The intern gulped and said, “Honolulu General.”

The Dean frowned.  “You’ve been accepted into two prestigious East Coast research hospitals.  Working at either of them would give your career an enormous boost.  I don’t know anything about Honolulu General.  None of their departments are known nationally.  It may be a fine hospital, but it’s not in the same league as the other two programs.  Why would you want to go there?” he asked.

The intern squirmed.  He knew that question would be coming, and despite mulling it over for days, he hadn’t come up with a convincing answer.   He decided that the truth was the only option, so he lamely replied, “Sir, it’s in Hawaii.”

The Dean leaned back in his chair, with a gleam in his eye.  “Ah,” he said, “adventure!”  And he wrote the recommendation.

I had noticed on a recent hike that the trail was badly in need of the attentions of a pulaski.   A pulaski is a kind of landscaper’s axe, with a digging blade on one end and a chopping blade on the other, and it’s my weapon of choice on trail maintenance days.  Ruth was out of town, and I was in a mood to excavate, so I headed off to the trail with my pulaski, which I’ve named Casimir, to chop some stumps.  (Actually, the pulaski is named for Ed Pulaski, a possible descendant of Casimir Pulaski, but if you’re going to name a hand tool, “Ed” is kind of weak.  Ed is a fine name for an actual person, though.)

It was a gorgeous spring day, and I met quite a few hikers as I worked my way down the trail.  First, a disclaimer — I was doing trail maintenance on a Land Trust trail with the advance approval of the Land Steward.  It’s not rocket science, but I have had some training and experience in working with this tool, and I know the Land Trust’s general guidelines for trail maintenance.  Just want to make clear that unauthorized trail maintenance is a no-no, so if you are thinking of doing some free-lance trailblazing, please contact the Land Trust and get permission.  Better yet, join a trail work crew and learn how to do the job properly.

Anyway, I chatted with a few folks along the way, and one of them mentioned that one could bushwhack to the Green Grotto off this trail.  I’d heard of the Green Grotto — a creek that drops over a waterfall into a hole, not to reappear again for almost two miles, but I didn’t know exactly where it was.  I filed away the info, and returned to my chopping and digging.  I had set a target of how far I would work on the trail, and I have to admit I was darn glad to see my finishing point.  After a short rest, I headed back up the trail.

When I reached the landmark that was the jumping-off point for the walk to the Green Grotto, some part of my brain leaned back in its chair and said, “Ah, adventure!”  There were a couple of hours of daylight left at least, and I didn’t think I’d have to go very far.  Now, usually when Ruth and I set out on a hike, we’re prepared.  We’ve got water, food, light sources, GPS, camera, cell phones, first aid, maps or other trail information, and hiking poles.  I had water (a little), a cell phone, a small pack, and a headlamp.  green_grotto_creekAnd Casimir, who is fine at digging roots but not so great at being a hiking pole.  Other than one rather vague direction (“follow the creek”) I had no particular idea where I was going, or how far I’d be going.  I wasn’t even sure if I’d still be on Land Trust property, which is why I’m being really vague about where this all took place.  But I decided to go for it.  Ah, adventure!

I followed the creek down into a ravine that became increasingly steep and narrow, with no trail to be seen.  The undergrowth was pretty manageable, though, so I picked my way slowly, making a few creek crossings when the other side seemed easier to navigate.  green_grotto_waterfallIt was tough going, and I was beginning to think about whether I could perform a self-arrest with Casimir (a survival technique used with ice axes to halt a fall down a slope).  I had set a time at which I would have to turn around, since I knew I’d have a tough ascent back to the trail.  Fortunately, five minutes before my turnback time, I reached the Green Grotto and had a look around.  The waterfall was rather puny, but it did indeed disappear and the ravine was dry below it.  There was also a passage back into the mountain, but since the hour was late and I was by myself, I decided that exploring the passage would have to be a separate adventure.  Update:  I’ve since heard from a reliable source that the Green Grotto is in fact “super dangerous” and should only be entered by people with proper training and equipment.  I’m not one of those people, and I don’t want to have an adventure that includes a high-speed impact with the bottom of a pit cave.

green_grottoThe climb back up to the trail was about as grueling as I expected, and I didn’t quite come out where I expected to, but at least I emerged a bit closer to the trailhead than I had planned.  I was pretty tired, I had more than a couple of sticks snagged on my pack, and probably a few twigs in my hair, but I had been to the Green Grotto!

So, even though I hadn’t planned on it, I had an adventure, and I highly recommend them.  But, adventure responsibly, my friends.  Know your limitations so that your adventure doesn’t become a misadventure.  Adventure ethically, too.  If I had run into signs saying I was on private property, I would have turned around.  Being on an adventure is fun, but it doesn’t give you a Jackass License.

Perhaps bushwhacking your way down and up a ravine isn’t your definition of fun,  but if you’re going to play hooky from work, be sure you get an adventure out of it!



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