Trust your gut. Or make a plan backed by data. Or do a combination of both.
But don't just take someone else's word for it. Or their advice.
Six weeks ago I hiked the Timberline Trail around Mt. Hood (AKA Wy'east) with Keeley.
In order to get to the trail, we had to park at a trailhead for an offshoot path that connected to the Timberline after about a half mile.
Once we got to the junction, we took a left, believing that was the correct direction based off what we had been told prior to starting.
As we started walking, I noticed we were walking away from the mountain. It didn't seem right, but somehow I justified it in my mind ("Oh, the trail must skirt the mountain wider than I thought").
We came across a backpacker shortly thereafter, and asked him the way to Timberline Lodge, which we knew were supposed to be walking away from. He pointed in the direction from which we had just come.
Great! Confirmation. We must be on the right track.
We weren't. And it wasn't until we had gone 3 miles north on the PCT before we realized we had made an error.We were already doing 25 miles that day, so adding another 6 felt like a lot, and we didn't arrive to our destination until well after dark.
We made the classic error of relying on random advice.
The Eastside of the mountain. More stark, with much less vegetation than the familiar Westside. This was my favorite section of the trip.
When you are facing a decision point, don't rely on other people. Advice from others, while mostly well-meaning, is fairly random. It is colored by a completely different history, life-experience, and set of circumstance than your own.
On our hike, if I had followed my gut, I would have been compelled to turn around when I noticed the Mountain was behind us.
If I had consulted the data, I wouldn't have been so lazy and would have pulled out my map.
Even better would have been the powerful gut+data one-two punch. When I felt like something was wrong after getting a visual on the mountain (gut) I would have immediately stopped and pulled out the map (data). Then I would have been able to clearly see that we needed to turn around.
Gut or data or both. Both are better than accepting random advice and going in that direction.
Also, it is completely appropriate to ignore all of this and do exactly what you want, even if that means taking random counsel. After all, it worked out well for us - the adventure would not have been quite so memorable without those extra few miles!
Peter Koehler's Writing Archive