We make plans. We ready our resources: materials, time, energy. Then we get started.
Boom! Something throws our plan off track.
Do we throw the whole idea by the wayside? Not if we’ve cultivated flexibility and resourcefulness.
Being extremely rigid about expectations is a hallmark of some people on the autism spectrum, including my son. The smallest deviation from an idea can trigger aggravation. You don’t have to be on the spectrum to feel this way. In childhood, I felt like the world would never be right again when reality didn’t match my pre-imagined reality. Becoming adjustable is an ongoing process.
Over time, many of us learn to “go with the flow” and adjust to changes more easily. The evolving nature of weather and walking conditions makes hiking a great activity for learning flexibility. Mother Nature doesn’t care about satisfying our preconceived notions.
On a rare family trip away, we saved a special hike as the last activity before a several-hour drive home. We’d read about an “ecological staircase” hike over terraces that showcased 500,000 years of earth’s history. Totally on our must-do list.
“The description said 2.5 miles. ‘Staircase’ implies some climbing, but a little over a mile in and a mile out can’t be too bad,” reported another family member.
We enthusiastically set out on our brief final hike. About a mile in, we realized we’d barely put a dent in it. The trail maps were all gone at the trailhead, so we were winging it. I remembered the local hike guidebook I had stuffed in my bag.
“Guys. It’s 2.5 miles each way. 5 miles round trip.” Aha.
Did we give up on reaching the pygmy forest boardwalk we were aiming for? We did not. We recalculated our expectations, and kept walking forward. It was one of the best activities of our stay.
Flash forward to my plan to visit my aging dad. Autism parenting, work projects and the pandemic had kept me away for three years. With the vaccine, things looked somewhat safe for travel.
Clothes and gifts for the trip all packed, I suddenly became violently ill right before the trip. A stomach virus, not the fast spreading pandemic variant dominating the news, knocked me out of any travel plans.
Heartbroken to miss visiting my dad, I stopped to recalculate. What if I had taken my virus or a worse virus to my dad? Time to regroup, reconsider, and adjust to the idea of a future trip.
Just as our longer-than-expected hike was all the more satisfying for sticking with it, seeing my dad will be all the more special when a safe opportunity arises. May we all learn to adjust to shifting life circumstances, and keep putting one foot forward!
This week’s Hike Notes, Jug Handle Ecological Staircase-Mendocino, leads readers on a fascinating hike through geological history in one of the many beautiful natural areas on the Mendocino Coast.
Click Insights/Hike Update News for inspiring reflections. Browse hikes on the main Hikes page or on the Hike Search by Area (was Quick View Hike List) page. Click World Walks to see or share favorite family-friendly walks! Stay in touch with Lisa Louis and HikingAutism via Contact.
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Hike Notes 139: Jug Handle Ecological Staircase-Mendocino
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Sharing insights and hiking highlights (Hikes, Hike Search by Area) from the special needs caregiver front in San Francisco.