An adventure of my life time!


Since it rained and snowed two days ago when I went to Rio Grande National Forest, I decided to re-visit it again today (4/22/13). After all, it is only a couple of hours away.

At 8:30am, I drove up to the South Fork’s Visitor Center, hoping to get more detailed map and hiking info about the area. The lady said she is not a hiker, but then she pointed to a gentleman just walked in the office and said “Denise knows the hiking trails around here very well”.

So I asked the gentleman about the hiking trails. “Don’t go hiking by yourself. It is not safe. Hike with us!” Well, “us” turned out to be about two dozen hikers in the area! They hike every Monday, Tuesday and Thursdays. Of course I wouldn’t pass such great opportunity to hike with the locals! So, for the next two hours or so, I hiked with this nice group of hikers and had a great time talking to them. Hiking 6 miles with elevation gain of 1000 feet seemed very easy and fast compared to when I hiked alone! I may even go hiking with them again on Thursday.

Afterwards, I thanked them for having me, said goodbye to everyone, and took off for more sightseeing and hiking on my own. One of the interesting places I learned and got a map is called “Natural Arch” in Rio Grande National Forest. As someone who loves rocks and rock formations, even the place seemed a little hard to find, I went without any hesitation. I do have a detailed map of the area with me.

“You have to drive on some county road” I was instructed. Well, the “county road” actually is an unpaved road. It wasn’t smooth by any means, but since the surrounding is quite nice with lots of rocks, I took my time and drove very slowly. I did feel bad for my new car, though. Driving on such condition certainly wouldn’t be any good for it.

Driving 15-16 miles on bumpy road seemed so long, even with beautiful scenery. Finally, before I started to get a little uneasy about coming here without seeing a single car, I saw the sign – “Natural Arch, 1 mile”. I sighed in relief. At least it is the right place!

Well, a couple of miles passed. The Arch wasn’t in sight. And to make it worse, the road splits. Now which way should I go? On the map, I should turn right, but there is no sign to instruct the turn.

I decided to follow the map. After all, if it not correct, I was just going to turn after a couple of miles. No big deal. Right?

Wrong! Pretty soon, I realized that the road I turned to is even worse than the previous unpaved road. It is actually a dirt road with up hills and rocks in the middle of the road (I learned later on that it is a 4 wheel drive road). Soon I felt really uncomfortable.

Driving in such wilderness without seeing anyone is bad enough. What if I get stuck here? So I made a wise decision – I stopped driving and started hiking! If I didn’t see the Arch in a mile or so, then it is not on this road. By that time, I could drive back on the previous road and keep driving a bit longer to find it. Or worse to worse, I was going to drive back and I was willing to miss seeing the Arch. Not seeing an Arch isn’t the end of the world, even to me, the one who is crazy about rocks and rock formations.

I did find the Arch – the map is correct and of course the sign (showing one mile) isn’t that accurate.

My question of the day is – where is the “healthy” balance between taking a risk and playing it safe?

Driving on an unpaved road in the total wilderness is a rick I was willing to take, but driving on a really rough dirt road isn’t something I felt comfortable doing. To play it safe, I chose to hike rather than to drive. I felt comfortable hiking, even in the wilderness. Here is my “healthy” balance.

What would you do if you were me? Where is your balancing point? I am sure everyone has a different answer! Even for me, at different stages of my life, I would have totally different answers. As a young and fearful person, taking such a trip was unthinkable for me; yet, at one point of my life when I was so fearless, I would push on, either by driving or by hiking, until I finally find the place.

So I guess a “healthy” balance differs from one person to another, and varies at different stages of our life. Finding such a point is personal and is important to all of us – where we are willing to take some risk to do the things we love to do, yet we are not to get ourselves constantly in trouble or in danger. A life without taking any risk for what we love to do is dull; taking too much risk may make us pay too much.

Just a thought to share from my little experience today.  🙂




PS. my photo website:


Comments on: "12. Where is the “Healthy” Balance?" (6)

  1. I loved the hiking-with-the-locals part and got nervous reading the dirt-road-part. Not only do we all have different risk-taking threshold for ourselves, we also have a different cut point for our loved ones…

  2. I agree with your thoughts about how our comfort levels change during our lifetime.

    I think the most important question is, if I choose to take this route, or this step, what’s the best way to mitigate the risk? In this context, some of the principles would be:

    -Before you leave, be sure to tell someone where you’re going.
    -Carry plenty of water (of course, as an experienced hiker, you know this)
    -Keep your cell phone fully-charged, preferably a smart phone with a satellite GPS.

    Others might be:
    -Maintain a membership in an emergency roadside service such as AAA or (better yet) Better World Club
    -Always have a supply of chocolate : )


  3. Xiaoying said:

    On the top of the 2nd photo, it’s a human being or a tree there?

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