Often times in life, the reality of a situation turns out significantly different than the expectation. In fact, this has been one of the biggest challenges that I have had to deal with. Like many in my generation, I grew up in a time of prosperity and high hopes for the future, and was told by parents, teachers, etc. about the rewarding life that awaits those that generally do the right thing. While nearly every person who reaches adulthood has to come to terms with the fact that the world is unfair and that sometimes the wrong people get their way, those in our generation, particularly since the 2008 crash, have had to come to terms with a world where opportunities are fewer and harder to come by than what we had initially prepared for.
I went to Maxwell Falls, near Evergreen, CO, expecting two things that did not materialize. Most hikes in Colorado are an uphill climb from a trail-head to a specific destination (a summit, lake, natural feature). I had become so accustomed to this standard formula, that it had never occurred to me that this hike could be any different.
The beginning part of the hike was rather uneventful. The climb was fairly moderate, and the trail would occasionally descend slightly to cross over creeks. This is kind of typical across Colorado, especially in places like Rocky Mountain National Park. However, about a mile and a half, maybe two miles into the trail, we reached an unexpected junction.
After a short section where the climb was more rigorous, I was surprised not only to find a spot where five separate trails seemed to merge together, but also find out (from talking to people) that none of these “forks” in the trail actually represented a part of the loop I had been expecting to encounter. The sign pointed to which way to follow the trail, which also, shockingly took us on a fairly rapid descent. This is not what I had become accustomed to, nor was it what I had expected.
The descent was fairly lengthy too. It almost felt like we had descended halfway back to the trailhead’s elevation! It was there we finally encountered the loop we had anticipated.
Facing unexpected junctions, getting routing advice from strangers on the way, and anticipating landmarks that take longer to reach than anticipated made me think of Lewis and Clark. On their expedition they would seek advice from many of the Native American tribes they encountered along the way. They also encountered a few river junctions that made them pause and investigate which way to go. They came into their journey with little information about features such as Great Falls, and the Rocky Mountains. All they knew going into the mission was that these features existed, and they had a general idea of where they were. Both of these featured proved more challenging to pass through than expected. However, despite these unexpected challenges, they were still successful in their mission, and are still commemorated over 200 years later!
The falls themselves also did not quite meet the expectations. The expectations I had about a waterfall hike largely came from hiking Brandywyn Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, as well as viewing other falls in Rocky Mountain National Park, and Yellowstone National Park. In all of those situations, the trail would either arrive right at a scenic view of the falls, or a spur coming off the main trail would take hikers right up the falls. At Maxwell Falls, it was tough to find a really good view of the falls. We ended up crossing the river and making a somewhat dangerous scramble to a remote rock to see the falls from a somewhat different vantage point.
It was still really neat to see the true power of water falling, even from a short distance, and to actually watch the residual spring ice melting right in front of our eyes. But, it was still far from what I had been expecting from my previous waterfall hiking experience.
Despite not getting the picturesque view of the waterfalls, this hike offered some other neat features that I had not necessarily anticipated. After climbing up the Cliff Loop, we encountered views of the mountains that were much more splendid than I had imagined. It actually reminded me what I had been missing. Prior to this hike, I had not gone on a hike for several months. A couple of months ago, I started a new job in Denver, and had been focusing on making that job, as well as my life in Denver in general, work. I love to travel, have new experiences, and explore new places. But, unfortunately, for a while, my life’s demands had taken me elsewhere.
In addition to the splendid views at the higher points on the trail, which did turn out to be a series of ups and downs, we also encountered one of the most unique rock formations I have ever seen. This rock, I refer to as “Troll Rock”, as it looks quite like a troll. It was quite amazing, and was the subject of wonder for quite some time about what unique combination of all of the processes of nature could have lead to this particular rock shape.
The end of the day saw the sun come out, and the temperature rise. This was an unfortunate turn of event for my Husky, who is built for colder conditions.
One of the things that still amazes me quite a bit about life itself is how often the specific experiences we have at a specific time actually mirror what is going on in our lives, or in society, on a much larger scale. Today I expected a hike where I would climb up to a waterfall, be taken right up to that waterfall, and then make the ascent back to my car. Instead, I got periodic climbs and descents throughout the duration of the hike, and awkward scramble around strange rocks to largely overlook a waterfall, but also unexpectedly encountered wonderful views at the top and unique rock formations.
In life, I expected to do well at school, generally stay out of trouble, and find a fulfilling job in my field of study. Instead, I found a world where the seemingly well deserving nice people end up reporting to control freaks that often find sinister ways to get ahead, opportunities do not always present themselves, and many of the specific jobs I had originally hoped for have some expected downsides to them. So, now, I am trying to make something completely different work, and thus far it is largely working out! It appears that sometimes the path to fulfillment is not the expected one, and the reasons we end up enjoying the things we enjoy are not things we had previously considered. Maybe what our generation as a whole needs to do is let go of what we had hoped for out of this world and remain open to finding fulfillment in a completely new way.