When to hold & when to fold

One of my outdoor mentors told me more than once, “Never, ever cancel an outing just because of what some weatherman says. Unless you see a tornado, we’re going anyway.”

That advice has gotten us some direct experience with rain and thunderstorm, jungle heat so bad that it almost gave the mosquitoes heat strokes, camping and hiking in snow, climbing icy cliffs, and outrunning flash floods. We even got hit by a hurricane once. (Okay, twice.)

But you know what other wisdom applies equally well to outdoor adventures? The Gambler by Kenny Rogers.

You’ve got to know when to hold em,

Know when to fold em,

Know when to walk away,

And know when to run.

We’d been planning a 3-day backpacking trek at the Black Creek Wilderness for a while, but as the weekend approached, we started getting weather reports talking about some rain. No big deal. We figured to keep an eye on the weather reports and probably go anyway.

The next day, the forecast changed from rain to two days of severe thunderstorms. No biggie. We’ll keep it under advisement and maybe go anyway.

Then, as the weekend neared, they started talking about the violent thunderstorms being followed by cold – like honest to goodness 20 degree F cold.

20 degrees F is no biggie to some of our northern buddies, but a day of hiking through violent thunderstorms and lightning, followed by a night of camping in 10-15 degrees-below-freezing weather, followed by more hiking in a flooded, frozen river basin is a big deal for southern folks.

It’s not like it’s a total deal-breaker. If we were thru-hiking the A.T. or had some important mission, that sort of cold and wet could be overcome by experience and equipment. It would be doable.

But this was just going to be a nature get-away with some fresh air and some camp cooking and some exercise. No grand mission. There would be no adverse consequences if we did not go.

I sent all the adventure buddies a message telling them I wanted them to camp out on their couch at home, read a book about outdoor adventure, and only hike to the kitchen for a bowl of chili or to the fireplace to throw another log on the fire.

We’re going to have a vicarious adventure this weekend because the misadventures I mentioned earlier have given me a better idea of when to hold and when to fold.

Categories: Adventure, Camping, Hiking