Tuesday, July 16, 2013


I found out something about myself this past weekend: I don't like retracing my steps. 
I don't want to turn around and go the way I came; I want to keep going forward.

seeking the Contour Path

Isabel and I were fulfilling one of her summer goals: the three-hour hike on the Contour Path (on Table Mountain) between Newland's Forest and the King's Blockhouse. We had a map, good shoes, directions, water and wind breakers. We were ready.

At first the map was easy to follow and we encountered quite a few other hikers and some picnickers. We knew we had to find the Woodcutter's Path then cut uphill to locate the Contour Path which promised vistas of the bay and scenery unparalleled. To our surprise, the map was sketchy in places and the directions were not straightforward. As we started to wonder about one turn off we'd taken, we heard voices on a lower path and headed back to ask them. Short, quick, they were seasoned hikers and assured us the Woodcutter's Path was just up that very trail. 

We found it and felt rather jubilant. Our Frodo and Sam combo felt good. We enjoyed the trees, the rocks, the multiple streams to "ford" and glimpses of the view to come. The Woodcutter's Path went very far, indeed, and when we reached a rutted road, we realized we had missed an ascending path (three, actually) which would have taken us to the Contour Path. There was no access to the Contour Path from our location and we'd either have to accept the road or retrace our steps. I was pushing for a cross-country attempt. But Isabel was the map-keeper and navigator. We had to go back.

That's when I learned about me. How I dislike retreating. Going back. Undoing something that hasn't been well done. I'd much rather head on, push through, not "give up." But this wasn't an option. If we wanted to accomplish our goal, we'd have to go back. That's when Isabel reminded me of Lewis' observation:

"If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man. We have all seen this while doing arithmetic. When I have started a sum the wrong way, the sooner I admit this and go back and start over again, the faster I shall get on. There is nothing progressive about being pigheaded and refusing to admit a mistake."

We turned around and kept our eyes peeled for the missed trails. Three times we imagined trails and started uphill, only to have the trail disappear, and three times we had to retreat to the Woodcutter. I was beginning to feel like Sam when he remarked that things looked familiar, and Frodo observed: "we've been here before, we're going in circles." Now the truth dawned, despite our maps and preparations, we did not know the way. 

But eventually, the trail appeared and we realized that we'd missed it in our joy at seeing a sign for "Woodcutter's Path". While rejoicing that we'd found the first part, we missed the turn-off to the second part. Then the going got rough as we ascended steeply.

Great was our rejoicing when we finally attained the Contour Path. But it would not have been ours if we had not turned back. 

"there is nothing progressive about being pig-headed and refusing to admit a mistake"
C. S. Lewis

1 comment:

Jarm Del Boccio said...

What a Mother-Daughter bonding time you had, Karen. I enjoyed your comparison to the Sam and Frodo team. . .great insights! Someday, I hope to climb that trail with you. By that time, you will have the directions down-pat.