“You’re not out of the woods yet.” said the doctor to the recovering patient. “You need to take things a bit slower for a while. Listen to your body; it will guide you to where you need to go.”
Being “in the woods” is an experience unlike any other.
Coming out of the woods takes time. My analogy is to a really long hike in the mountains where you find yourself deep in the woods.
Rarely can you drive in and park your car at the hardest part of the hike, right? You park at the trail head and then, typically, meander along a path, maybe through a meadow, or a path alongside a stream. You notice the flat terrain, thinking, “this will be a piece of cake” and then, over time, there is narrowing of the trail, maybe rolling hills. You feel a slight increase in your heart rate and have a sip of water. Soon you take off (or put on) a layer as you notice an increased elevation.
Fast forward to the real workout as you ascend some peaks and in your way you are shaded by the canopies of the deep woods where downed tree trunks from some storm make it hard to recognize your trail-and you ascend- part of the hike where you can’t breathe easily and sip water (and wonder if you brought enough water and power bars). You notice some aches and pains and you may feel terribly lost. But then there is a break and you think ” the mountain is my friend” and you marvel at the spectacular vistas, regaining your confidence. (I just noticed that I seem to be lost in my experience and promise I will not turn my musings into an article for OUTDOOR SPORTS).
When the time comes to return, it takes patience, attention to detail and time to come out of the woods. The trail is NEVER THE SAME on the way down. You have to be more careful not to rush and twist an ankle on a rock. Yes, the same rock that offered a sunny spot to rest on the way up is now in the shade and the moss is damp and slippery. Or you may not notice a dip in the trail that you casually hopped over on the way up us in a bed of poison ivy.
The way back is a whole different experience than either entering or being deep in the woods. And the way back requires more rest and time to take in the experience you had because coming out of the woods looks shorter but seems longer than you thought it would be.
So don’t get rid of your hiking sticks too soon. And be sure to fill up the water bottle and bring an extra layer. There are unexpected bumps, turns, obstacles and moments when you need to pause and reflect, re-think what is the best route to get out of the woods at THIS moment, recalibrate your expectations, and continue on.
The good news is that once out, even if it takes longer than expected, you will feel incredibly accomplished!