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  • Writer's pictureD. Randall Faro

Check the Gas Gauge

Yesterday’s delightful forest hike brought to mind an important principle for bushwhackers. While the late afternoon journey was not overly strenuous, it was uphill and into uncharted (for me) territory. The farther away I got from the trailhead, each step taken was part of the distance I would have to cover on the return trip. This might seem an obvious fact, but it is one many forest and mountain travelers sometimes forget or disregard.

It is a well-known fact among alpine mountaineers that the lion’s share of injuries and deaths happen to climbers on the way down. The quest for the summit can hinder the remembrance that one needs to judge energy levels, weather, and daylight availability when calculating what is needed to get safely home. Since the summit is only the halfway point, a climber must always be asking him/herself if there are enough energy reserves for the trek downhill. Getting to the top is optional. Getting back down is not.

Human endurance might be compared to air flight where a plane cannot pass beyond a certain point or there would not be enough fuel to make it back home. A pilot exercising prudence will be checking the gas gauge regularly and computing the necessary turn-around point.

This checking-the-tank awareness that is part of climbing or flying is a principle one can apply to other areas of life. To use another image, one must be careful not to bite off more than one can chew. Business have failed because of over-borrowing or inadequate market research. Jobs have been terminated when accepted without adequate knowledge or experience. Weightlifters have been injured in gyms because of trying to lift weights for which their bodies were not yet prepared.

Careful judgment. Prudent analysis. Personal awareness. All of these are requisites for living a life that respects both oneself and others with whom we form relationships . . . especially when people in relationships might depend on us for vital things, even life itself.

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