Hikes Rarely Go Exactly As Planned

The Look of Shame...

Some times, no matter how carefully you plan a trip things just go wrong. Sh*t happens as they say. A piece of gear will break unexpectedly, something important will get accidentally left behind, that carefully planned resupply won’t arrive on time, or someone will get hurt – it could be a myriad of scenarios and at some point in time we’ve probably all experienced it a little.

My Feet

Part of the planing process is making sure you are carrying an adequate amount of gear to help you improvise a solution or fix for when things do take an unexpected turn. For the most part we (backpackers) are a very resourceful bunch who are able to fix or patch most things in order to make it through the rest of the hike – but some times there’s just no suitable solution other than to call off the hike and bail out safely.

Instagr.am | @bfgreen

Just know that things will and do often go wrong. It’s rare that even a very well planned hike will go exactly as planned. My advice to you is to simple embrace it! If you are able to embrace the inevitability of your best laid plans changing, you are one step closer to having a solution to it. It’s my Rule #5.

Here are two recent examples of hikes not going as exactly as planned:

What’s the worst things that has happened to you on a hike that you thought you had carefully planned, and how did you overcome the challenges that you faced?

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  • http://www.trailsherpa.com Trail Sherpa

    My recent trip to Havasu Falls certainly fits into this list. Trail runners were a bad call on my part with the sand easily finding its way into the shoe from the vents. Rookie mistake but it never crossed my mind.

    My solution: wear my water shoes! Certainly the best decision I’ve ever made in crunch time and it allowed me to discover one of the best pieces of gear I’ve ever had.

    The trail report: http://timminer.com/trail/havasu-falls-mooney-falls/

    I had a backup plan too which included duct tape.

  • http://www.trailsherpa.com/ Trail Sherpa

    My recent trip to Havasu Falls certainly fits into this list. Trail runners were a bad call on my part with the sand easily finding its way into the shoe from the vents. Rookie mistake but it never crossed my mind.

    My solution: wear my water shoes! Certainly the best decision I’ve ever made in crunch time and it allowed me to discover one of the best pieces of gear I’ve ever had.

    The trail report: http://timminer.com/trail/havasu-falls-mooney-falls/

    I had a backup plan too which included duct tape.

  • CJ

    The worst thing that happened on a hike was on the Buffalo River Trail (upper). Myself, my daughter and another backpacker with differing levels of experience – two younger with limited day hikes under their belt. We drove from FL to AR for the hike. After day one of a four day planned we ran out of water sources. Not one creek, crevice, tree stump – nothing had enough water. Our first night at camp, an unnamed hiker dropped an open bladder and our water was reduced to one remaining liter for four people. We were about five miles from a safe area to climb down to the river. We walked three hours the next morning sharing the liter. Fortunately, two of us knew the area and had our plan to retrieve water and hydrate the others. Took us an hour on a switchback down and up but were able to refill the packs and walked another two hours to a campground. The idea was to enjoy a walk in the woods with family and friends – we weren’t going to press on and play survivor. We bailed and found a great greasy spoon and put this one in the “we’ll be back column.”

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Well I’m glad that you made the right choice and lived to tell the tale. I think it can really surprise people how quickly things can go drastically wrong – losing your water being a prime example. An unnamed hiker – love it :)

  • CJ

    The worst thing that happened on a hike was on the Buffalo River Trail (upper). Myself, my daughter and another backpacker with differing levels of experience – two younger with limited day hikes under their belt. We drove from FL to AR for the hike. After day one of a four day planned we ran out of water sources. Not one creek, crevice, tree stump – nothing had enough water. Our first night at camp, an unnamed hiker dropped an open bladder and our water was reduced to one remaining liter for four people. We were about five miles from a safe area to climb down to the river. We walked three hours the next morning sharing the liter. Fortunately, two of us knew the area and had our plan to retrieve water and hydrate the others. Took us an hour on a switchback down and up but were able to refill the packs and walked another two hours to a campground. The idea was to enjoy a walk in the woods with family and friends – we weren’t going to press on and play survivor. We bailed and found a great greasy spoon and put this one in the “we’ll be back column.”

  • http://sticksblog.com/ Chad “Stick” Poindexter

    Nice post…and I love the top picture… :) Thanks for the shout out too!

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      I was tempted to write up my own trail report, but I’m not so into that really and your’s is spot on, so figured I’d just point people to yours :) Regardless of how things turned out I had a great time and can’t wait to get us all together again – SOON!

  • http://sticksblog.com/ Chad "Stick" Poindexter

    Nice post…and I love the top picture… :) Thanks for the shout out too!

  • jayduff

    Yo Brian, long time lurker here (I’m in CLT too, btw) and just wanted to say your blog is great. I’m just starting to get back into hiking and am learning lots from what you write … gear has come a long way from my boy scout & high school/college days! I can sympathize with things not going as planned … a few weekends ago I decided to hit the Harper Creek Trail in the Wilson Creek area. Despite not having a GPS and an, er, “inadequate” map (got twisted somehow and had to backtrack instead of doing the whole loop), and also discovering the alarming presence of ground hornets here in NC (something I read you also know about) I did have a great day out and swam just below Harper Creek falls. At least I brought lots of H2O (just ordered a Sawyer Squeeze after this trip, no more lugging a gallon of water for me) I had all the other KEYS to a good hike. Keep up the fine work here.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      It’s great to hear that you finally decided to stop being just a lurker! Yay :) You know, I’ve gotten turned around many times over the years, typically on shorter or “easier” trails that I stupidly didn’t have an adequate map for – thought I knew better. I’m not saying you need a detailed topo map for a one-mile loop, but common sense prevails (or should) if you aren’t familiar with the hike.

      I have a very good sense of direction despite what my wife says! I’m fortunate that I am a visual thinker, so landmarks, terrain changes, creeks and stream all register in my mind and allow me to have a somewhat accurate sense for where I am and my direction of travel. Time of day, sun position, and even certain plants can all help there too. I’m glad you had the sense to backtrack and get back safely.

      I’ve never used the Sawyer Squeeze filter system, but watched Stick use it on our hike and have read many rave reviews. From what I saw I’ll probably pick one up too – the system is sound and flexible in use.

      Don’t go back to being a lurker, I’m sure you have plenty of questions so ask away! ^BG

  • jayduff

    Yo Brian, long time lurker here (I’m in CLT too, btw) and just wanted to say your blog is great. I’m just starting to get back into hiking and am learning lots from what you write … gear has come a long way from my boy scout & high school/college days! I can sympathize with things not going as planned … a few weekends ago I decided to hit the Harper Creek Trail in the Wilson Creek area. Despite not having a GPS and an, er, “inadequate” map (got twisted somehow and had to backtrack instead of doing the whole loop), and also discovering the alarming presence of ground hornets here in NC (something I read you also know about) I did have a great day out and swam just below Harper Creek falls. At least I brought lots of H2O (just ordered a Sawyer Squeeze after this trip, no more lugging a gallon of water for me) I had all the other KEYS to a good hike. Keep up the fine work here.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    I was tempted to write up my own trail report, but I’m not so into that really and your’s is spot on, so figured I’d just point people to yours :) Regardless of how things turned out I had a great time and can’t wait to get us all together again – SOON!

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    It’s great to hear that you finally decided to stop being just a lurker! Yay :) You know, I’ve gotten turned around many times over the years, typically on shorter or “easier” trails that I stupidly didn’t have an adequate map for – thought I knew better. I’m not saying you need a detailed topo map for a one-mile loop, but common sense prevails (or should) if you aren’t familiar with the hike.

    I have a very good sense of direction despite what my wife says! I’m fortunate that I am a visual thinker, so landmarks, terrain changes, creeks and stream all register in my mind and allow me to have a somewhat accurate sense for where I am and my direction of travel. Time of day, sun position, and even certain plants can all help there too. I’m glad you had the sense to backtrack and get back safely.

    I’ve never used the Sawyer Squeeze filter system, but watched Stick use it on our hike and have read many rave reviews. From what I saw I’ll probably pick one up too – the system is sound and flexible in use.

    Don’t go back to being a lurker, I’m sure you have plenty of questions so ask away! ^BG

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Well I’m glad that you made the right choice and lived to tell the tale. I think it can really surprise people how quickly things can go drastically wrong – losing your water being a prime example. An unnamed hiker – love it :)

  • Birch Davis

    The first time we took the kid backacking, she piked a fever in the middle of the night. We ended up carying her out.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Ugg, that sucks. Hiking anything more than a casual day hike with kids adds a whole new dynamic. I carry different gear when I have my kids with me than I do by myself or with other experienced hikers – you have to. Better to be safe than sorry and risks I would take with myself I will not do with my kids or other’s kids.

      Glad to hear you made the smart choice and got out of there. Hope it didn’t spoil your experience too much and that you try again soon, if you haven’t already.

  • Birch Davis

    The first time we took the kid backacking, she piked a fever in the middle of the night. We ended up carying her out.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Ugg, that sucks. Hiking anything more than a casual day hike with kids adds a whole new dynamic. I carry different gear when I have my kids with me than I do by myself or with other experienced hikers – you have to. Better to be safe than sorry and risks I would take with myself I will not do with my kids or other’s kids.

    Glad to hear you made the smart choice and got out of there. Hope it didn’t spoil your experience too much and that you try again soon, if you haven’t already.

  • Emily

    Last week I (almost literally) ran into an active bee hive on my way up a mountain so I hiked back down and went up a different way! Problem solved – and a little extra exercise too!

  • Emily

    Last week I (almost literally) ran into an active bee hive on my way up a mountain so I hiked back down and went up a different way! Problem solved – and a little extra exercise too!

  • Cal

    I don’t know that it’s the “worst” thing (I’ve probably blocked those memories out, LOL) but one time we forgot to take toilet tissue into a very remote location in the mountains. The guys didn’t seem to care, and I’m not a “girly-girl” by any means, but lets say I destroyed a lot more foliage than I usually like to on any expedition.

  • Cal

    I don’t know that it’s the “worst” thing (I’ve probably blocked those memories out, LOL) but one time we forgot to take toilet tissue into a very remote location in the mountains. The guys didn’t seem to care, and I’m not a “girly-girl” by any means, but lets say I destroyed a lot more foliage than I usually like to on any expedition.

  • DD Longlegs

    We have LOTS of bears here of both species in northern BC and my favorite thing is to hike alone…perhaps not the best combination (although I always leave a hike plan with someone).
    Last year I had thrown together a wee pack to go down to Flatbed Falls near Tumbler Ridge where the dinosaur trackway is and then continue on over the connector to the lower river (about 4 miles round trip). I had included my bear spray (always) and was wearing bells (always) but it was windy and noisy in the woods. As I came skipping down around a corner on the connector trail I came face to face with a young adult black bear. We were both startled spitless! He bounced on his front paws (a precursor to a charge) but was also looking frantically right and left. Since I was higher up on the hill than he was he probably felt threatened and was looking for an escape route but was prepared to charge if he felt he had to. I screeched to a halt and slowly backed up and around the corner out of sight in the woods, sheepishly dug out my spray from the *bottom* of my bag (!!) and pulled the trigger lock out (!!), counted to about 200 slowly and slowly peeked around the corner again. He was gone and probably grateful that I had given him a way to save face and skedaddle. I may not have been so lucky if he had been older and more experienced.
    Once was enough. I now always have the cannister handy, trigger lock off, and bigger bear bells on to be noisier. (They DO make a difference unless the bear is predatory and then even bear spray may not save you.) Experienced First Nations guys around here tell me I am insane to hike without a Defender but I am not sure I want to do that. There are a LOT of grizzlies here too though so perhaps worth considering.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jason.duffy.7 Jason Duffy

      Ho-ly crap.

    • Ted Roth

      These types of stories make me very grateful that I do not live in bear territory! Thanks for sharing…

  • DD Longlegs

    We have LOTS of bears here of both species in northern BC and my favorite thing is to hike alone…perhaps not the best combination (although I always leave a hike plan with someone).
    Last year I had thrown together a wee pack to go down to Flatbed Falls near Tumbler Ridge where the dinosaur trackway is and then continue on over the connector to the lower river (about 4 miles round trip). I had included my bear spray (always) and was wearing bells (always) but it was windy and noisy in the woods. As I came skipping down around a corner on the connector trail I came face to face with a young adult black bear. We were both startled spitless! He bounced on his front paws (a precursor to a charge) but was also looking frantically right and left. Since I was higher up on the hill than he was he probably felt threatened and was looking for an escape route but was prepared to charge if he felt he had to. I screeched to a halt and slowly backed up and around the corner out of sight in the woods, sheepishly dug out my spray from the *bottom* of my bag (!!) and pulled the trigger lock out (!!), counted to about 200 slowly and slowly peeked around the corner again. He was gone and probably grateful that I had given him a way to save face and skedaddle. I may not have been so lucky if he had been older and more experienced.
    Once was enough. I now always have the cannister handy, trigger lock off, and bigger bear bells on to be noisier. (They DO make a difference unless the bear is predatory and then even bear spray may not save you.) Experienced First Nations guys around here tell me I am insane to hike without a Defender but I am not sure I want to do that. There are a LOT of grizzlies here too though so perhaps worth considering.

  • Ted Roth

    One year, 3 buddies and I had a long 9-day trip planned… Being the nice guy that I am :o), I decided that we should not have to carry our full amount of food for the entire 9 days and decided to play pack mule. So, about 3 days before our trip, I drove up really early to do a 36-mile round trip hike to drop off 35-40# of food at a bear box about half way on the trail. I was in decent shape, expected to walk up really fast and then jog out. Pretty optimistic, huh? Suffice to say that I totally underestimated the time it would take to hike in, and jogging out was not an option because of my aching body after the drop off.
    Well, it got darker and darker, and the trail had very steep drop-offs. There was no moon and no other light because of ominous cloud-cover. (Although I had laid out my little flashlight to bring with me, I conveniently left it at home.) I finally realized it was no longer safe to go on. So, I put my rain gear on, pulled my Gossamer G4 pack on as a lower-body sleeping bag, curled up in fetal position and tried to sleep on the trail … not only that, I got a severe headache that night and had no aspirin. Luckily, it was a warm night and the ominous clouds only spit on me a little. Otherwise, I was planning on pulling a John Muir and just bouncing up and down all night to stay warm.
    This is more of a story of overconfidence, ignorance, and poor planning creating an unnecessary challenge. My friends appreciate having this story to tease me about … for like the last 10 years.

    • DD Longlegs

      Wow! Just a note of caution for the future. Trails are usually used by wildlife and most often at night. They don’t like to bushwhack any more than the rest of us. One could get stepped on… or worse. Might be better next time to step off the trail even a few feet. That way you could more likely hear them coming if they decided to leave the trail to check you out.

      • Ted Roth

        Thanks for the tip … would not have thought of that. If I remember correctly, I did have nightmares of mountain lions that night. The California black bears don’t worry me much, but I still have respect. Of course, I have no intention of a repeat performance! Still bothers me that I forgot my flashlight … I could have easily hiked the remaining 1 or 2 hours out down the steep pass.

        About 3 or 4am, I did have some trail visitors, actually. A couple of backpackers who had started out sometime after midnight, heading up the pass. Luckily, I heard them coming and got out of the way. They stopped and chatted for a while, probably just to make sure that I was OK. We laughed about my predicament, and then they continued on their way.

    • DD Longlegs

      An added thought…if you do step off the trail, make sure to tie something in the bush or make a mark of some kind between you and the trail so in the daylight next morning you don’t go the wrong direction.

  • Ted Roth

    One year, 3 buddies and I had a long 9-day trip planned… Being the nice guy that I am :o), I decided that we should not have to carry our full amount of food for the entire 9 days and decided to play pack mule. So, about 3 days before our trip, I drove up really early to do a 36-mile round trip hike to drop off 35-40# of food at a bear box about half way on the trail. I was in decent shape, expected to walk up really fast and then jog out. Pretty optimistic, huh? Suffice to say that I totally underestimated the time it would take to hike in, and jogging out was not an option because of my aching body after the drop off.
    Well, it got darker and darker, and the trail had very steep drop-offs. There was no moon and no other light because of ominous cloud-cover. (Although I had laid out my little flashlight to bring with me, I conveniently left it at home.) I finally realized it was no longer safe to go on. So, I put my rain gear on, pulled my Gossamer G4 pack on as a lower-body sleeping bag, curled up in fetal position and tried to sleep on the trail … not only that, I got a severe headache that night and had no aspirin. Luckily, it was a warm night and the ominous clouds only spit on me a little. Otherwise, I was planning on pulling a John Muir and just bouncing up and down all night to stay warm.
    This is more of a story of overconfidence, ignorance, and poor planning creating an unnecessary challenge.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jason.duffy.7 Jason Duffy

    Ho-ly crap.

  • Ted Roth

    These types of stories make me very grateful that I do not live in bear territory! Thanks for sharing…

  • DD Longlegs

    Wow! Just a note of caution for the future. Trails are usually used by wildlife and most often at night. They don’t like to bushwhack any more than the rest of us. One could get stepped on… or worse. Might be better next time to step off the trail even a few feet. That way you could more likely hear them coming if they decided to leave the trail to check you out.

  • DD Longlegs

    An added thought…if you do step off the trail, make sure to tie something in the bush or make a mark of some kind between you and the trail so in the daylight next morning you don’t go the wrong direction.

  • Ted Roth

    Thanks for the tip … would not have thought of that. If I remember correctly, I did have nightmares of mountain lions that night. The California black bears don’t worry me much, but I still have respect. Of course, I have no intention of a repeat performance! Still bothers me that I forgot my flashlight … I could have easily hiked to 2 or 3 hours out.

  • gnhikn1

    Just recently hiked a section of the Ozark trail with a group of Boy Scouts preparing for Philmont. I was so busy reminding the boys what to prepare for that I failed to eat any breakfast the morning we started the trek. The afternoon temperature reached 104° and I was totally sapped of energy by mid-day and no amount of hydration or nourishment seemed to restore my energy. The boys ended up carrying a good portion of my gear as I struggled on the trail. We cut the trek short (12 miles/ 2 days) and spent the rest of our time either in the shade or playing in the river to stay cool. I am a strong believer in keeping a plan flexible and having a plan B.

  • gnhikn1

    Just recently hiked a section of the Ozark trail with a group of Boy Scouts preparing for Philmont. I was so busy reminding the boys what to prepare for that I failed to eat any breakfast the morning we started the trek. The afternoon temperature reached 104° and I was totally sapped of energy by mid-day and no amount of hydration or nourishment seemed to restore my energy. The boys ended up carrying a good portion of my gear as I struggled on the trail. We cut the trek short (12 miles/ 2 days) and spent the rest of our time either in the shade or playing in the river to stay cool. I am a strong believer in keeping a plan flexible and having a plan B.