Ode to Off the Beaten Path

Usually we are up and at em’ at the crack of dawn, ready to take on the day as we had planned ahead of us, but tomorrow would be different. Tomorrow we would put on the “follower’s” hat instead of leading ourselves into adventure. 

Our hitch-hiking friend from Portland, Max, had invited us to stay at his family’s cabin just outside of Boulder for the evening. We wound up the mountain following a dirt road filled with potholes that led us to a large wooden swing-gate. About another half-mile of twists and turns, we finally pulled up to two small A-framed cabins resting in a meadow that overlooked a rushing creek at the base of another mountain. Out onto the deck walks Max, all smiles with his hands in the air greeting us to his nature haven. After a long evening of reunion, eating, and going for a dip in the wood-fired hot tub, we turned in for a good nights sleep beneath the stillness of the forest.

Midday snuck up on us as we rolled out of bed around 11 AM. Waking up to eggs, nutella-banana quesadillas, and fresh fruit gave us just the energy we needed for the hike our adventurer had planned for the day. 

With a National Forest in his backyard, I expected to follow a trail. I was unexpectedly surprised to find that we were trekking up the mountain climbing over boulders, ducking beneath branches, tightrope-walking dead trees, and trenching through a swampy meadow of grasses up to my chest. 

We were walking a path of our own making.

Back home, I tended to follow the path others had lain before me. I gravitated toward the safe route, the secure route. Yet here, I wandered off the beaten path.

Back home I grew up with a meadow on either side of me, but never had the courage to wander through the grasses for fear of encountering snakes or ticks or spiders. Yet here I ventured, unafraid of the creatures lurking around me.

I felt the sting of the twig branches scraping my arms and back. I felt my knees buckle as I slipped down the loose dirt of the mountainside. I felt my toes squish into the muddy water that hydrated the meadow.

Sure my feet were muddy, my sandals dirty, my legs scraped... but I engaged myself with nature in a way I never had. I watched a moose drink from a watering hole. I heard the sonic screech of a falcon soaring above me. I felt the calm of a hidden lake tucked between the pines.

Sometimes wandering off in life can leave you feeling beaten up, whether that’s taking a leap of faith in a new job, moving to a new city, leaving a relationship behind. But in those moments of uncertainty along the road less traveled, we just might find ourselves exactly where we are meant to be. 

-Kahrin

Katie O'Connel