Posted by: thehungryrunner | August 9, 2008

Confronting Obstacles: How badly do you want to get through?

Last weekend, we took a much-needed trek up to Devil’s Lake State Park, our favorite place to visit in the world (convenient that our favorite place in the world should only be a 3-hour drive from home!). 

A view from a hiking trail at Devils Lake

A view from a hiking trail at Devil's Lake

I’ve been visiting the park for hiking, swimming, and just the sheer bliss of escaping to the fresh air and stunning outdoors since I was in diapers; prior to that, my parents and grandparents themselves included Devil’s Lake as part of their annual summer excursions.  38 years later and the “bloom” has still not worn off!

This would, however, be the first visit for us this year, unusual as we typically make at least one winter and numerous spring/summer outings up to Devil’s Lake.  But our early summer rainstorms had caused significant flooding and damage, necessitating a rare closure of the park for a period.  An unnerving bit of news, I have to tell you!  I couldn’t imagine my beloved beaches, picnic areas, and the popular Tumbled Rock Trail underwater!  Fortunately, the park reopened shortly thereafter, but progress – make that regress (of water, that is) – is still painfully slow.  The last I’d read, there are still isolated sections of flooding, though the majority of the park is now at least operational.

So needless to say, the desire to get there was all the more intense this weekend, both due to having been deprived of our Devil’s Lake “quota” thus far this year, but also out of need to assess the damage with our own eyes, and hopefully feel a little assurance that things are, indeed, returning to normal.

Early signs were promising:  we were excited to see the volume of visitors, as high as ever, which creates its own excitement as you wheel your car around to try to hunt down a parking spot.  Swimmers galore, hundreds of picnics, Frisbee games, hikers, bikers, campers, canoers…..it seemed to whole “kettle bowl” runneth over with life and activity, no immediate sign that anything had been amiss.  I breathed my first  happy sigh of relief.  We miraculously found a recently vacated parking spot and scrambled out to begin our typical hiking excursion:  a tour of a series of trails that would ultimately take us around the circumference of the entire lake, offering many challenges and rewarding views atop the 500-foot bluffs.

But our early excitement was soon challenged by our first potential impediment:  the trailhead of the Tumbled Rock Trail, which hugs the shoreline, wore a sign indicating that the trail is closed due to high water.  This trail was our key connector to accessing the rest of our course, not to mention one of the more pleasing hikes of the whole park.  A day without the Tumbled Rock Trail is practically a day of not fully experiencing Devil’s Lake!  And sure, enough, shortly past the foreboding sign, you saw the evidence:  the next 50 or so feet of trail were submerged.  The water wasn’t deep – about a foot or so – but there it was, its resident fish darting about, oblivious to the fact that they were swimming where normally feet are tromping.

Ah, but here is where I was reminded, later on upon reflecting on this moment, how very true it is that if you REALLY want to get through, you’ll find a way.

So Dan took off his shoes and socks, while I and several other fellow intrepid hikers made an attempt to scramble up and across some nearby boulders (hence the name of the trail), all in an effort to sidestep the waterlogged trail and allow us access to our revered Tumbled Rock Trail.

Both approaches proved successful, and we gleefully resumed our planned journey, giggling knowingly at every hiker we encountered, knowing that to get to where they were, they each had to do some variant of what we just did.

Two more times we found ourselves having to forge a similar Plan B, the final of which was definitely the most challenging:  true to what I had read, a good length of the south beach road (which was at the other end of the Tumbled Rock Trail) remained under about 3 feet of water.  To get around this one, you either had to wade in the deep water (fun only if you’d brought your bathing suit) or do as we did and clamor our way up the slope (dodging some Poison Ivy) and into the woods, forging a path to parallel the road until we could exit safely onto dry land.  From that point on, our day’s hike went as per usual.

My whole point in relaying this story is, there was not a moment in which we’d contemplated turning back, or scrapping our plans.  Nope, it was simply a question of, “Okay, we can’t do it that way.  So how ARE we going to do it?”  And while we encountered quite a few hikers who themselves clearly had a similar thought process, we also knew there must have been plenty of people who never made it past that first “trail closed” sign (and, truth be told, for many potentially valid reasons.  Having kids in tow, for starters).

It brought me back to that age-old lesson that if you REALLY are intent on making a change, or taking a certain action, be it hiking your favorite state park or losing weight or improving your fitness or boosting your health…..you WILL find a way, no matter what unforeseen obstacles may step in your way.  It’s a tough reminder, because we humans are so darn good at finding perfectly good reasons why we could not follow through with our best intentions.

So the next time you find yourself facing a birthday cake someone brought into the office after you’ve avowed to steer clear of sugar during the day…..or are hearing the alarm clock going off for your morning workout after getting to bed much later than you were hoping….ask yourself one key question:  “Do I want to hike the Tumbled Rock Trail or not?” 🙂

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