Elk Falls, in Stauton State Park, is a fairly lengthy hike. The round trip from the main parking lot (called the Meadow Parking Lot) is about 11 miles, depending on where you park. It begins with a mostly flat, 3.1 mile section called the Staunton Ranch Trail.
The trail passes by areas of interesting rocks where people climb.
And even crosses a county line.
As is the case with most State Parks, this trail is part of a network of trails that connect several important features. Elk Falls just happens to be the most commonly discussed feature, as it is the tallest waterfall within an hour drive of Denver.
Staunton State Park is one of the easiest trail networks to navigate. At each trail junction, there is a sign that not only identifies the trails, but also serves as a mile marker.
At this point, I had hiked 2.6 miles and had 1.6 miles to the Elk Falls Pond.
With an additional 1.2 miles from the pond to the waterfall, this sign was quite close to the halfway point of the hike.
The hike from the parking lot to the falls would take just over two hours (the return trip would be about the same length). Over the course of the trip, the signage would provide me with a total of about five mileage updates. I actually found this to be quite close to the frequency I desired.
However, I wondered, how many updates we really need and what impact it is having on our experience. I thought about the explorers of centuries past, who would travel great distances using maps that, while state of the art for the time, would be considered woefully insufficient today. Lewis and Clark, for example, famously underestimated the length of their journey by many months. Yet, today we demand mapping software that estimates our time of arrival to the minute. These software packages, available to anyone who has a smart phone, even adjusts expectations for the one aspect of travel that still lead to uncertainty at the turn of the century- traffic. Now, at any moment in time, we can say exactly how much distance and how much time we have left.
Has this detracted from the experience? Are we bombarding ourselves with too many updates? Does checking the map on our phone for updates too frequently cause us to focus too much on the destination, preventing us from enjoying the journey? Could it even be causing anxiety? Elk Falls is the destination and the highlight of the trip, but while still over an hour away from the Falls, it is certainly better to enjoy what is in front of me than to spend the entire time anxiously awaiting the Falls. The same can be said for the trip back to the parking lot.
It makes me think of everything else in life we excessively look for updates on. How much is too much? How often do we check…
- The number of likes our photo received?
- The current status of our investments?
- Whatever device is tracking our fitness goals?
- The news?
And, what impact does it have on…
- The experience we have in the places where we took those photos
- How we think about the investments we chose to make
- Our feelings about our bodies
- How we feel about the state of the world
It feels like we’ve reached a point where we are updating ourselves too frequently on too many things. Maybe it’s time to back off all of it and try to be more present in the moment. Maybe this will require some degree of acceptance, of things how they are as opposed to how we wish them to be.