Welcome back Trail Blazers to Day 5 of my 31 Day Series “Creating Your Motivational Action Plan.” For the next couple days, I am going to cover critical material that is essential for the success of your journey. I have learned this life lesson the hard way, and I have watched other entrepreneurs make the same fatal mistake of taking on the adventure of entrepreneurship painfully unprepared.
15 years ago, I was just getting into hiking. I always loved the Maine woods, but up until that point had never done any “major hikes.” So a group of friends and I decided to climb the infamous Mt. Katahdin. While I was in great shape, I was nervous about crossing “Knifes Edge” but was told by a friend that I could opt out of crossing and go back down the trail that ascends the summit if I decided that crossing the 3′ wide, vertical mile drop summit ledge was not my cup of tea. That day, we all waited in line to get in to Baxter State Park. We had made our reservations months in advance, and we were blessed with perfect weather. Once through the gates, we gathered in the parking lot and went through our back packs. My friend Curt went through my back pack and removed my flashlights, rope, extra food, and my large survival kit. “You wont need these.” he said. “We will be down and back to camp before dark.”
I made a critical error that day. I believed him, and didn’t trust my own instincts to always be prepared – for anything.
We took off through the trails, and were slowed down considerably by one of our comrades who was more interested in taking pictures than hiking. By the time we reached Chimney Pond, most of the hikers who had struck out at the same time as us were already nearing the summit. I started getting nervous at the thought of being up on the summit beyond our allotted water and food supply, but we pressed on and started our ascent up the Saddle Trail. The last part of the trail was frightening as we continually lost our footing and slipped on the loose rocks. We had to watch for hikers ahead of us who also were struggling and rocks would catapult past our heads with shouts from above “heads up!”
We finally got to the Table Land and started making our way to the summit. I was feeling more confident -after all, this part was a walk in the park….. until Ethan hyper-extended his knee and blew out a ligament. As he sat on a rock, writhing in pain, I felt helpless. I pulled my tiny first aid kit that had only bandaids and ointment, and realized my Ace bandages were in my large survival kit -in the car. He said he could muster along… and very slowly we finally reached the summit of Mt. Katahdin. Once we celebrated victory, I asked which trail was “down.” I was told I would either have to go back down the Saddle Slide, or cross Knifes Edge. I thought about the rocks catapulting past my head, and realized one false slip, and it would be me flying off the side of this pile of granite. I decided crossing Knifes Edge was a better option. It was on Knifes Edge that I realized that I am deathly afraid of heights, and I really hate being above tree line. Looking down at airplanes flying while hiking is not my idea of a good time.
As we gimped along at a snails pace, we eventually made it over Knifes Edge, and hobbled down below tree line, and started our decent down the Helen Taylor Trail. We had already watched the sunset (it was glorious, but frightening to watch), and the temperatures began to plummet. Mandy was only wearing shorts and a T-shirt, she had no extra clothes in her pack. Thankfully I had won the argument with Curt about leaving my light weight jacket in my pack, so I had one extra layer. I also had snuck a penlight into the side pocket of my pack, vowing to not complain if my pack started feeling heavy.
For 3 miles, I would walk ahead of the group, using my small pen light to find trail blazes, and then stop, turn around, and shine the small beam on their feet so they could join me. We made our way through the dark thick woods in that fashion for hours. The entire time I hiked, I cursed the fact that I allowed myself to come into this wilderness so unprepared. We had no business being up there with so few supplies. I was imagining the headlines now “A party of four inexperienced hikers found dead in Baxter State Park after wandering lost for days.” I was fantasizing on who I would eat for survival first, and then remembered my matches were in my large survival kit -in the car.
Hours of traveling in this manner, with no food, no water, and cold temperatures started making me feel fatigued. I kept thinking I was seeing a beam of light, winking its way in and out of the darkness. It took several hours for me to realize that I wasn’t imagining the light – that it was actually someone walking on the same trail as us – at least a mile away, but surely, and slowly coming towards us. Who would be climbing UP this mountain this late at night? After another hour, we finally got our answer – it was a Park Ranger. He saw my tiny light and decided to see if it was a distress signal. He approached us, took off his heavy pack, and handed each of us a water bottle, a flashlight, and a granola bar. Tears streamed down my face as he fitted Ethan with a neoprene knee bandage, and told us he would accompany us the rest of the way down to the Park Ranger Station.
So what should you have in your survival kit so you make it out of the woods alive? Come back tomorrow, and I will share with you the “5 Essential Tools You Need in Your Entrepreneurial Survival Pack”
Until then -Hit the Heights!
Priscilla Hansen Mahoney
The Natural Leadership And Business Guide