Nathan Cowlishaw of the West Desert Journal (and top-notch photoblog Desert Dream) wrote a great little post about learning from a mistake he made while leading a 4×4 group trip in the Grand Canyon. I won’t give away the story, but the moral he writes is: “The mistakes you make are teachable moments. They are experiences that create an impact that are still recalled years down the road.”
Over the years, I have made more than my fair share of mistakes on the trail. It took a freezing camp at the rim of the Grand Canyon to convince me that yes, sleeping pads really DO make a difference when you’re trying to keep warm. I had to fall into a river before learning that when boulder hopping, you just have to keep moving no matter what. I had to get lost in the dark on an off-trail bushwhack without a map or flashlight or warm coat to realize exactly how many dumb mistakes I made on that one … but I learned a lesson from each bad move and kept on going, wiser for it.
And I think that’s a good thing. We hikers tend to be a pretty stubborn lot (in a good way, mostly). We don’t need no rules, we don’t need no planning, and we don’t need no stinkin’ badges! Until something happens that makes us realize people give that advice for a reason.