Thick fog graced the landscape today, and the temperature hovered up near freezing. Close enough it bobbed back down far enough that on the way home some of the fog had frozen to the road. Blue the Pickup did just fine, but a younger gal in a Taurus wagon wasn’t so lucky – she’d slid off the road and into the opposite ditch. (She was all right – I stopped to help, shoveled under her car a bit, since the snow had packed up and hung the car up by the undercarriage, but didn’t have the tow rope with me. She eventually decided to call AAA and wait.)
Have you ever had those moments where your habits catch up with you? That you’re so set in your ways that another possibility never even occurs, and after the fact you find yourself wishing you were just a bit quicker-witted, or that you’d imagined and planned for that type of encounter ahead of time?
That was this morning.
Geared up and nearly ready to head up the trail, another car pulled up to the Barn Bluff parking area. The guy who got out was youngish, far more lightly dressed than I was, and said that he was in town on a business trip and figured he’d take in a sunrise from Barn Bluff on his last morning in town.
Of course, we commiserated, it wasn’t going to be much of one – the dewpoint and temperature had danced incredibly close to each other overnight. Although, sometimes the fog can be thick on the ground but four hundred feet upward the skies are clear.
But you have to get that four hundred feet up first.
This fellow – never did get his name – wasn’t willing to wait until I had my ice cleats on, but charged right up the stairs. He did ask a few questions about the trail and if it was stairs all the way up and whether or not a person could get lost.
I’ve lived in the area for nearly sixteen years. Until last year when I attempted this project for the first time, I had only climbed the Bluff a handful of times, and even since then, the only path I’ve ever taken is the South Trail. On the landing after the first set of stairs is a turn and a set of three stairs to the right, leading to the Midland and North Trails; I don’t even see it anymore, I’m focused on the path leading slightly left. So I didn’t tell him not to take that right-hand path, even though I did call up to him to mind the ice. I didn’t even think that a person could possibly get the choice wrong until I was on the south trail and could look ahead to the foot of that first hill… and didn’t see him.
It was a total facepalm moment. And it was rooted in that social awkwardness that doesn’t let me come up with the right thing to say in the moment. So I have to plan ahead; imagine scenarios and what I would say in any given situation. And in all of those scenarios, the possibility of meeting someone who had no experience at all with Barn Bluff didn’t ever occur to me.
But… now that I have, I can choose my words and set them up as a mental subroutine for the next novice I encounter.
(He didn’t get up to the eastern overlook by sunrise, but he also didn’t get lost – his car was gone by the time I got back to the pickup.)