The Benefit of Obstacles


Maybe I have it wrong, maybe obstacles aren’t all bad. Often people talk about overcoming obstacles, getting past or through them, but maybe that obstruction was placed there on purpose, designed to protect you from going down the wrong path. I’ve written about maintaining momentum in spite of obstacles but maybe sometimes we need to heed the warning and turn back.

There is a big difference between turning back and giving up, however. Turning back just means you’ll find another way, maybe even a different path altogether, but progress continues. When presented with a block, unable to reach your goal, don’t curse the obstruction. Look around and try to see it from another perspective, as a warning that danger lurks if you insist on continuing. Only after you consider all options can you be confident that getting up and over the obstacle is the best choice or that turning around now leaves you better equipped to fight on another day.

That is exactly the lesson I learned on The Skyline Trail.

Julie and I, avid hikers, decided to set off on a hike up the San Jacinto moutains from the base in Palm Springs to the tram station over 8,000 feet up. The trail known as the Skyline trail is wilderness hiking at its Warning signbest. It is not marked and even has several signs at the start indicating the dangers that lie ahead.

The climate ranges from hot desert at the base, to cold and snow at the higher elevations. The night before our hike it rained in

Snow on the trail

Our first sighting of snow on the trail.

Palm Springs but snowed several thousand feet up the mountain. Believing we could handle the hike we began the ascent loaded down with water, food, and warm clothing for the difficult journey.

We were excited when we saw our first signs of snow and before long we were ankle deep in it. As we continued up we could see the tram in the distance having gotten 8 miles into our 10 mile hike but the snow was much deeper and any indication of the trail was buried deep below. We had to make the decision to continue or turn back. The choice was easy in spite of what should have been an 8 mile hike now being a 16 mile hike.

The obstacle, snow obscuring the trail, could not be ignored and was not worth pushing past. We turned back and lived to try again. I’m still waiting for our next opportunity but when it comes I’ll be ready having the learned a valuable lesson.

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