Recovery Share: Today is not Tomorrow

You hear a lot in recovery, and western spiritual circles in general, about staying in the moment. And sometimes, because I can be a bit of a crank, I want to smack people when they talk about it. But recently I had a good opportunity to practice just that — maybe not exactly in the moment, but at least sticking to today rather than making up some tomorrow to worry about.

The scenario was this: I was going to be leading a hike for a group of people I hadn’t met, so the day before I went to do the hike to check it out. It was also at pretty high elevation, so I was preparing myself physically as well as mentally. And, it being my first day at high elevation, and my first hard hike in a while, I struggled a bit.

Now, if there’s such a thing as a normal and healthy person, that would kind of be it: I struggled the first day, but since that was just a practice day it didn’t matter. I would do better the next day, and whatever happened I would deal with.

But I suppose I’m not normal and healthy, at least in this regard. Instead, my struggles on day 1 set off a carnival of fantasies and delusions about day 2. I was actually walking along on day 1 with my head sounding as if I was in fact on a disastrous day 2, with my physical struggles at least as bad and the whole group annoyed at and disappointed with me. I mean this in the sense of my thoughts, not that I was in some altered state where I was confused about which day it was … much.

Even during the hike on day 1, I kept telling myself, “This is not day 2! Nobody is annoyed or disappointed. You’re just freaking out because you’re tired.” But it didn’t completely work. I went through — put myself through — a fair amount of stress about shit that wasn’t happening outside my head!

Exactly why I would do this is an interesting question that I honestly haven’t worked through yet. But what I was doing was really clear: I was making up an entire day that didn’t exist, during which a lot of bad shit was going to happen to me. And I was, of course, driving myself nuts and ruining any shot I had at enjoying day 1. And ironically, blowing up day 1 would actually increase the odds of trouble on day 2.

So here is where two tools of recovery came into use for me.

The first was simply telling myself, “You are making shit up. This is today, and today is not tomorrow.” Just in a very practical sense, that isn’t helpful, even if I’m making up all sorts of super groovy things that will happen to me tomorrow.

The second tool was separating the hype from reality. In other words, yeah I could be in better shape and that’s a worthwhile goal, but that doesn’t mean I’m a faint piece of crap who’s going to fail and bum everybody out tomorrow. Or yes, I could have prepared myself and the group a little better, but those are helpful lessons for next time around, not indications that I should never do this again because I suck. And so on.

As it happens, both days went fine, and I was really exhausted, and I got lots of positive feedback from the group, and I still found all sorts of things I think I screwed up. It’s just what I do.

And in the end, that’s the biggest lesson for me: not that I could stand to lose weight or exercise more or work on my guiding skills — although that’s all useful — but to remember that sometimes I go a little overboard on worrying about things and finding faults with myself. Or a lot overboard.

It helps to remember that, because then I can go to a really helpful thing my sponsor one said about resentments: they are like cats. If you don’t feed them, then eventually go away. So maybe the next time I’m on a hike I can just say, “Oh, right, here comes the crazy like it always does; I wonder if there’s anything useful in it.”

Thanks for reading.

You can find more shares like this here.

Oregon Coast Hikes: Cascade Head

In the lower meadows at Cascade Head.

Cascade Head is part national forest, part county park, and part Nature Conservancy. It offers beach and river access as well as two rarities: coastal meadows, high above the sea, filled with flowers and grasses and butterflies. And it’s not too much work to reach these treasures.

To get there, you head for US 101 like you’re going to Lincoln City, but turn north from where Oregon Highway 18 comes in near Otis. A short distance up, you’ll see Three Rocks Road to the left; that leads to Knight Park and the trailhead #for hike #1 below. Keep going on 101 and, just before the crest of the hill, look for a road leading left into the woods; that leads to the trailheads for hikes #2 and #3, but it will be closed between January 1 and July 15 each year.

Let’s take a quick look at these three hikes at Cascade Head.

Hike #1: Knight Park to Cascade Head

Forest on the way to the meadows from Knight Park.

This one starts from the parking lot at Knight Park, by the mouth of the Salmon River. Follow a trail through the trees and along the road, then keep following signs until the trail goes into the woods and starts climbing a bit.

It gets brushy and crosses a few creeks, but it isn’t much work. After just over a mile, you’ll pop out into the open in the meadows, with a decent shot at spotting elk grazing or a bald eagle flying overhead. From here, the trail will keep climbing as much as another 1,000 feet or so. Just do as much as you want and head back.

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Hike #2: Easier Access to Cascade Head

Salmon River mouth from the top of Cascade Head

If you take the second road off 101 described above, you’ll first come to a trailhead at a right-hand turn in the road. This is for the upper access to the meadows, and it’s a very straightforward affair: You just walk out through the woods on an old road for 1.3 miles, and there you are — at the top of the meadows. You can then go down towards Knight Park if you’d like or just hang out.

You could also, if you were feeling up for a slightly bigger challenge physically and logistically, do a cool shuttle: Leave one car here, take another to start at Knight Park, then walk up here on hike #1 and take the car down to hike #3.

Hike #3: Hart’s Cove

Hart’s Cove

The hike with the best variety at Cascade Head starts at the end of the upper road. This one leads about three miles out to more meadows with views of Hart’s Cove, and it starts out in an unusual way: downhill.

The first mile or so loses about 500 feet of elevation, then it levels and goes in and out of a few creek drainages before popping out into the meadows. Especially early in the hiking season (which starts July 15), this meadow can be really grassy and brushy, as no hikers have been in to trample down trails.

If you head for a clump of trees off to the left, you’ll have a nice place to sit with a view of Hart’s Cove and a waterfall that drops into the ocean. Throughout the second half of the hike you’ll often hear sea lions barking, as well. And if you’d like, there’s a little adventure trail down to the ocean from beyond the trees. Just be careful!

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Mount Hood Hikes: Burnt Lake and Zigzag Mountain, 6-24-2018

Burnt Lake and Zigzag Mountain is a little Mount Hood hike that has it all: trees, waterfall, lake, exercise, and a great big view of Mount Hood.

Mount Hood over Burnt Lake.

I took a couple of out-of-town guests up there on June 24, and we had perfect conditions. It was sunny, warm, a little breeze, no bugs, and we somehow had the whole summit to ourselves. There were a lot of people around the lake, but it was a fun and relaxed scene. There’s great camping there, but we were just up for the day.

The first little bit is super easy, through the woods, crossing a couple of small creeks, and passing a nice waterfall. Then you climb steadily for a but to Burnt Lake (right), where you can stop or just rest, have a snack, and continue on to the viewpoint up on Zigzag (top of this post).

It’s a little over nine miles to do the whole thing, but the lake alone is six miles. And it’s all about an hour and 15 minutes from central Portland, from a trailhead very near Ramona Falls.

It’s all in my book, 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Portland; you can buy your very own signed copy of it directly from me, along with several other titles of mine, right here.

Here are some more photos from the day:

Big trees on the way up, some of the, burned long ago.
Burnt Lake, scene of much nice camping.
Rhodies on the way up, taken in late June
Looking around from the top of Zigzag Mountain.
Hood from the viewpoint up top.
Hood and the lake, from Zigzag Mountain.

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