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Learning to be Flexible and Embracing Change

So back in January I received an email that plans were being made for my 30th Class Reunion. After the shock that I was old enough to have been out of high school 30 years wore off I started planning in earnest a return trip to my hometown for my reunion followed by fun and adventure in the Colorado mountains and beyond.

My husband and young son were also excited about the prospect of this trip. Late last spring we decided we wanted to “get into” backpacking. While we’ve hiked for years (both Joe and I loved hiking before we even met each other) backpacking is totally new to us. Returning to Colorado for the reunion seemed like a great opportunity to incorporate a wonderful backpacking trip. Colorado is well known for hiking opportunities with everything from casual strolls to scaling peaks. The Continental Divide Trail runs through Colorado with 600 of it’s 3100 miles within the state, the 500 mile Colorado Trail spans from Denver to Durango plus there are hundreds (thousands) of other well used trails in every distance imaginable.

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Originally we discussed hiking a section of the Colorado Trail from Silverton to Durango but determined the almost 80 mile distance was beyond our capabilities especially with our 9 year old son along. Many sources recommend 1/2 mile per day per year of age for a child which meant we should limit to 4.5 miles per day, less than that at high altitudes. We finally settled on a plan of 2 two-night hikes, and 1 one-night hike with camping in established campgrounds in between. We’d be gone exactly two weeks, driving to the reunion. We put a great plan together.

Original Itinerary

    • Wednesday, Day 0: Leave mid-afternoon (Joe and I each needed to work at least a half day), camp at established campground in Wind River Canyon, Wyoming.
    • Thursday, Day 1: Driving Day. Camp on Grand Mesa, Colorado.
    • Friday, Day 2: Evening Reunion family event, stay in hotel.
    • Saturday, Day 3: Parade, festivities, Evening Reunion adult event, stay in hotel
    • Sunday, Day 4: Check out of hotel, drive to Silverton, Colorado. Begin Highland Mary Lakes Loop an 8.7 mile high altitude hike. We planned to start mid-afternoon and hike only a mile or two before camping.
    • Monday, Day 5: Continue Highland Mary Lakes Loop, camping somewhere around the 6 mile mark.
    • Tuesday, July 6: Finish Highland Mary Lakes Loop. Camp at Molas Lake Campground.
    • Wednesday, Day 7: Ride the Durango to Silverton Train. Camp at Molas Lake Campground.
    • Thursday, Day 8: Begin Lake Eileen Trail a 4.2 mile out and back hike. We planned to hike in, set up camp then hike out on Friday.
    • Friday, Day 9: Finish Lake Eileen Trail, drive to Mesa Verde and camp at Moorefield Campground.
    • Saturday, Day 10: Explore Mesa Verde, camp at campground.
    • Sunday, Day 11: Leave Mesa Verde, drive back to Silverton area to begin 8.8 mile out and back Molas Trail to Elk Park. Camp along trail.
    • Monday, Day 12: Continue Molas Trail to Elk Park. Camp along trail.
    • Tuesday, Day 13: Finish Molas Trail to Elk Park. Stay in hotel in Ouray, Colorado to enjoy hot springs and relax.
    • Wednesday, Day 14: The long drive home. Sleep in our own beds.

We were super excited about our plans and spent time getting all our gear, food and miscellaneous stuff ready. I have to admit, I very much love the planning part of a trip. I like knowing where we will be and how things may go. I’m not very good at taking a trip without the details figured out. Reservations should be made, food should be planned, clothing should be sorted out, etc. And once these things are planned I fully believe the plans should be adhered to with very little variation.

Over Reacting

Even though we had a great plan we ended up straying from it. While the trip was wonderful, more than anything, I learned a valuable lesson in flexibility and not fearing change.

In the past I would not have done very well with needing to make changes to our plans. Often times I’ve felt that things are written in stone instead of simply on paper. Not just with things like vacations but change in general is a challenge for me. Over the last couple of years I have been working on this, with a counselor through EMDR, to help me learn to adjust to small and large change and realize these are not (usually) catastrophic events.

Because of my new realizations I’ve been able to embrace several changes over the past few months both big and little things. But I was still concerned how I would do with any deviation from the plans we were making. My track record of being okay with small changes isn’t very good. In fact, I tend to freak out more over little things than big things – reacting in an over-the-top manner.

These excessive reactions have been a problem for me in many ways. First I’m not one to react quietly so my husband will often get an earful. He’s usually pretty great and understanding when I have these ridiculously excessive responses but on occasion he’ll snap back. When I over react my adrenals also take a whopping. I’ll often end up with a headache, upset stomach and more. The past few months I’m finding these reactions happening less and less which means I feel so much better.


My first test came early on when first campground, where we were to camp on the very first night, was under a thunderstorm advisory. As we got closer and saw the wind, rain and forecast of hail we wisely chose to not camp and stayed that night in a hotel.

The second change came the next day while driving down the freeway in 100+ degree heat. None of us relished the idea of camping in it. We ended up deciding to drive on in to my hometown and stay at the hotel Thursday night. This would have the second advantage of giving me all day Friday to catch up with family members for short visits. We did drive over the Grand Mesa and discovered the temperature was much cooler on top of the mesa, giving us a pang of regret for changing our camping plans. We did stop for a short mile and a half hike to stretch our legs and enjoy the scenery and cool air.

Learning to be Flexible and Embracing Change

Change three occurred on our Highland Mary Lakes Loop. The hike was much more of a challenge than we expected. The almost 2000 foot elevation change was all at the beginning of the hike and very hard on us. Instead of being able to go a mile or better in an hour we were only going half a mile or less. The ruggedness of the hike was really taking it out of us. We ended up deciding against doing the loop and camped by one of the lakes on the second night then went back down the way we came up on Tuesday. You can read more about this hike here.

Even though we didn’t complete the loop we loved the hike and would do it again. I did have a few pangs of regret for not completing what we planned but the change was the right choice for us. In the past, I would have likely pushed to finish and if wasn’t able would have pouted and very much voiced my displeasure. Handling this change of plans like an adult is BIG for me.

After this we started to rethink our other two planned hikes. We ended up eliminating our Lake Eileen hike and kept our camp spot at Molas Lake an extra day, doing a couple of mile hike from there in the morning. During the afternoon Joe and our son rented a kayak and played on the lake.

Learning to be Flexible and Embracing Change

We started talking about our final hike and decided the hike wouldn’t be a good choice. 35 switchbacks and an elevation change of 1700 feet suddenly sounded beyond our abilities. Then we found out we had been on the hike already! The day hike we took from our campground was the same trail we just hadn’t went to the switchback area. We had a good laugh about that when we were reading our hiking guidebook and studying our map. Leaving our campground and heading on we weren’t sure where our final backpacking trip would take us. We knew we’d be somewhere in the San Juan mountains but that was all. I can’t tell you what a leap of faith that was for me to have no idea what lay ahead.

Mesa Verde was wonderful. We arrived on a Friday afternoon with plans to stay Friday and Saturday night before going on our Sunday to Tuesday morning backpacking adventure. There was so much to do and to see in Mesa Verde. On Saturday afternoon we decided to keep our camping spot at Mesa Verde and skip our backpacking trek.


This trip ended up being much more than just a great vacation for me. It was a victory in so many ways. I didn’t just survive change, I thrived on it. The class reunion was a wonderful way to reconnect with people, I challenged my body with the physical activity of several long hikes and one backpacking trip, and I learned that a change in plans is not an earth shattering event that needs to destroy the entire trip. I didn’t have to break down over these changes, something that has happened in the past, but could just take a deep breath and accept that change happens. I could choose to be resilient during these changes. Sometimes going with the flow is just fine.

I did have a few times when I really had to take a deep breath and think before I spoke. I have found that the first paragraph of the “Serenity Prayer“, often used by addicts, really helps me remember my goals. It’s my version of counting to 10. Joe teases me I should just through up my hands and yell “Serenity now!,” like in Seinfeld.

Somehow, I don’t think this will work quite the same. 😉

Actual Itinerary

  • Wednesday, Day 0: Left around 4 in the afternoon. Stayed at hotel in Riverton,Wyoming.
  • Thursday, Day 1: Driving Day, motel for the night.
  • Friday, Day 2: Evening Reunion family event, stay in hotel.
  • Saturday, Day 3: Parade, festivities, Evening Reunion adult event, stay in hotel
  • Sunday, Day 4: Check out of hotel, drive to Silverton, Colorado. Begin Highland Mary Lakes Loop an 8.7 mile high altitude hike. Started around 3 in the afternoon. Hiked less than 1 mile before camping for the night.
  • Monday, Day 5: Continue Highland Mary Lakes Loop, camped by Highland Mary Lake #2. Realized we would not be completing the loop.
  • Tuesday, July 6: Finish Highland Mary Lakes hike, going back out the way we came in instead of doing the loop. Camped at Molas Lake Campground.
  • Wednesday, Day 7: Rode the Durango to Silverton Train. Camped at Molas Lake Campground.
  • Thursday, Day 8: Kept our camp spot at Molas Lake Campground which we were very fortunate to be able to get. The were pretty much full up. We took a day hike on a trail out of the camp which ended up being part of the trail we had originally planned to hike later in our trip, Molas Trail to Elk Park. Rented a kayak in the afternoon.
  • Friday, Day 9: Left Molas Lake Campground, drove to Mesa Verde, drove Mesa Top Loop, went to evening program on the Mesa Verde night sky, camped at Moorefield Campground.
  • Saturday, Day 10: Took Ranger guided tour of Balcony House, self-guided tour of Far View Sites Complex, the men went to evening program on the black bears at Mesa Verde while I did laundry, camped at campground.
  • Sunday, Day 11: Took Ranger guided tour of Long House, explored Weatherill Mesa which was a long walking path, went to evening program on the Mesa Verde climate, camped at campground.
  • Monday, Day 12: Took a Ranger guided tour of Cliff House, hiked the Petroglyph Trail, went to evening program on the wildlife of Mesa Verde, and camped at campground.
  • Tuesday, Day 13: Left Mesa Verde and drove over San Juan Skyway to Ouray making a quick stop in Telluride to see how much it had changed since I was there over 30 years ago (quite a bit).  Stayed in hotel in Ouray, Colorado to enjoy hot springs and relax.
  • Wednesday, Day 14: The long drive home. Joe and I slept in our guest bedroom since we had someone working on our bedroom while we were gone.

I have to say this was one of the best trips we’ve ever been on. Not because things were perfect or wonderful. Likely because they weren’t and, for a change, I didn’t let that bother me.

Do you find that you over react to the little things? What helps you keep things in prospective?

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