box canyon trail, ghost ranch, hiking, sabbatical

Free Day Hike, Part 1

On Thursday we were given the gift of a free day. I wanted to hike more so I figured I’d take on the Box Canyon trail. Here is the description: Continue past the Kitchen Mesa trail, the hogans and the upper irrigation pond. Follow trail signs up the canyon. At a small pool, cross the arroyo where the trail continues on the right bank, over large rocks to the box of the canyon. This hike follows a gently uphill grade from 6,400 to 6,900 feet. Round trip – 4 miles.

After my moment with the labyrinth, I followed the road to find the trail markers. I saw a sign pointing ahead, so I followed. At this point it was still a road and a soggy, muddy road it was! Pass the hogans, check. Irrigation pond? I see a tank, that’s probably what they meant. Well, probably not. Now to continue on the road and follow the signs to the trail. I walked a little further and came to a fork – one direction had tire tracks and the other had footprints. I decided to go with the footprints. I still hadn’t seen any sign or pond or pool, but no worries – it’ll show up. More muddy paths, I forged on. Until. Until I came upon a mucky, muddy, stagnant puddle. I noticed that the footprints had taken a slight detour so I followed, but eventually I had to step in the mud. No problem! I’m an adventurer! To the trail!

As I was walking I pondered on the beautiful blog post I was going to write about the footprints that led me to the path, mysterious footprints leading me on my way. However, after another 10-15 minute walk that led me to a dead end, I realized that blog post was dead too. No problem! I’ll turn around – surely I missed the sign along the way. Unfortunately, this also meant I had to go back through that muddy mess again. I wasn’t as graceful the second time through – my feet and sandals were covered in mud. And still, no sign. I pulled the trail guide out again. What am I missing? I went back to the hogans and irrigation tank, but still no trail sign, no pond. I had a faint cell signal so I decided to call the welcome desk to see if they had any advice – of course, I got put to voicemail.


I gave it one last try and went back to the fork in the road and took the other path. It led to another dead end. My amazing Box Canyon trail hike, the hike in which I would have deep insights on life and realize the plans for my future, the hike I would save for my one precious free morning, was not looking very likely at this point. I made my way back down the road looking on each side hoping to find a trail sign. It never did emerge.


Here we are again, an ongoing theme in my life – in all of our lives, I suppose – Plan A failed. Since conquering Chimney Rock trail on Tuesday, I had my heart set on completing Box Canyon. I spent an hour looking for this trail. I feel like I gave it a good effort and it still didn’t come to fruition.

But you know what, I was out there by myself searching for a trail. When one path didn’t work, I took the other. I wasn’t scared or nervous. I knew how to get back – I just wanted to figure out how to move forward. As I was realizing that this just wasn’t going to happen, I heard a dog barking. Or at least that’s what it sounded like. Good lord, the last thing I need right now is to be chased by a dog! The sound was coming from behind me, from a path I had already taken, and unless I woken a dog from a nap in the middle of nowhere, the likelihood of this sound being a bark was small. I still heard the sound though, so I looked up. It was a bird. I was hearing the bird’s wings flap in the air. It was quiet enough out on this back road with no trail signs that I could hear a bird flap its wings high in the air.

Plan A didn’t include a muddy puddle or a dead end or the sound of wings flapping in the wind. Plan A was supposed to be magical, inspirational, life changing. However, Plan A died as I walked back down the road, back to the place where I started. Plan A never did exist. Thankfully Plan B did. Plan B required me to let go of expectations and be in the moment. Plan B allowed me a chance to explore my courage.

In the past, when I began to realize that Plan A was never going to happen, I would have just gone home. I would have given up – since this wasn’t meant to be, nothing is meant to be! Thank goodness that mindset is in the past (mostly…) – I’m grateful for my growing wisdom that reminds me there’s more to life than Plan A. It turns out Plan B was spectacular – maybe even magical, inspirational and life changing.

When I returned to the welcome center after Plan B, I told the woman at the front desk about my misadventures. “Oh! The sign may have washed away. They are supposed to get it back up soon.” Helpful, lady. Very helpful.


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