The path less traveled

I like to walk and hike. I use Strava to track my walks.

Strava has a fantastic community-generated mapping feature. Its maps show blue lines indicating where everyone has walked, in aggregate. It looks like this:

The thick blue lines are places where lots of people have gone, but the skinny blue lines are places where only a few have walked or hiked.

Take a look at the “path” that’s visible under the words “Presumpscot Falls,” for example. Lots of people tromp out to the falls, which are actually visible from the end of the dark blue line just upstream of the labelled spot. But then they turn around and go back. Often, I don’t. I keep going on the poorly marked path that continues along the river, then clamber up the rocks at the end of that skinny blue line to reach the foot of the Allen Avenue bridge over the river.

Here’s what I’ve learned.

Where the lines are heavy, it is safe and familiar, but you probably won’t see anything new or exciting — or at least, nothing that’s different from what hundreds of other people have already seen.

Where there is no line, you probably can’t go. I once attempted to cross train tracks that appeared to be right across from an open space on the map, but where there was no blue line at all. There was a chain link fence that wasn’t worth scaling. Nobody else had gone there, and for good reason: it was impassable.

But where the lines are skinny, who knows what you’ll find. Views few have seen. Shortcuts around lakes and brooks. Rocks worth scaling. Where the lines are skinny, the fun begins. And you can move forward in the knowledge that at least a few people have gotten through the spot you’re trying to navigate.

I hate turning back. And if there is a line on the map, no matter how skinny, I know I won’t have to. If somebody else got through, I probably can, too.

I live my life this way, too

I am too old to try to do things nobody else has ever done, where the chance of failure is high. (If you’re still in the part of your life where this kind of thing excites you, go for it.)

But I am bored with doing what everyone else has done.

I want to try things for which there is hardly any precedent. Maybe I can figure out the best way to do them. Maybe I will find that they’re not worth doing. Or maybe I will have an experience that nobody has documented before, and get a chance to write about it.

There is risk here, but it is acceptable. There is the possibility of reward as well.

Seek out the skinny blue lines in whatever you do. Because if it’s not going to be a little adventure, why even bother?

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One Comment

  1. Yes! This reminded me of one of the high points of our amazing trip to Iceland in June. Skogafoss is a stunning waterfall. Most people admire it from its base. A few intrepid souls hike up 370 steep steps to reach the top. Hardly any continue on to see 25 more absolutely beautiful waterfalls, each looking like it was sculpted by a brilliant and incredibly creative artist. I’m so glad we took the path less traveled by.