Thursday, June 15, 2017

Hiking Pinnacle Mountain (or, a lesson in Time Management)

Location: Little Rock, Arkansas

Target Attraction: Pinnacle Mountain

On my way from the airport to the hotel I asked my Uber driver,”What’s the best tourist attraction in Little Rock?”

He piped up right away, "Pinnacle Mountain! It's the highest peak in the state, right next to the river. There's a great hiking trail to the top, not too strenuous either."  (Hmm, what's the "not too strenuous either" part about. Do I look old to you sonny?)

The next morning I googled "things to see in Little Rock" and Pinnacle Mountain State Park topped the list. A good hike is a rare find on any city attraction list and with two recommendations I planned my outing for Sunday prior my 3pm work start time.

Shoulda… set my alarm.

Normally I don't sleep past 6:30 am but this Sunday morning I roll over in my bed, grab my phone from the bedside table and do a double take when I check the time. NINE FoRTY Zeven? I haven't slept that late in years!

Woulda…had a leisurely breakfast.

But, keeping my 3pm deadline in mind I do a few yoga stretches, dressed and popped into the car a quick 30 minutes later with a plan to grab a coffee to go on the way.

Coulda…skipped the Starbucks stop.

The closest Starbucks is inside the Target store down the street where I need to return some items so I decide to kill two birds with one stone.

Shoulda…skipped the returns.

There’s a line at the Returns Counter. And, when it’s my turn I decide to exchange instead of just return. Now, in order to stay on schedule, I have to beeline through the store to grab the size I need. Silly me gets side-tracked looking at 10 other items on my way between the counter and the new shirt. Back to the Return Counter 15 minutes later.

Woulda…loved a Starbuck’s Protein box.

I got hooked on these perfect to-go snacks in Philadelphia, but they don't sell them here. Oh forget it, I really don't want the coffee and I'm sure I can pick up a water at a gas station on the way.

Now it's noon. I have 2.5 hours to get out to the park, hike, and return to the hotel in time for my work shift. I'm still committed.

The drive out to the park traverses quaint suburbs as it winds into the Pinnacle Peak Valley where the obviously wealthy Little Rock-ians live. Massive mansions border the Parkway, even one oversized horse farm that I'd expect to see in Lexington, not Arkansas.

Thirty minutes later I enter the park where a lush forest canopy blankets the road. It looks and feels like the gentle backwoods of North Carolina. I'm really excited to get out and hike, but first, a stop at the Information Center.

Shoulda…gotten a trail map online.

The Center’s volunteer offers me a trail map and describes the two routes up the mountain. She focuses on the gently ascending east side that is an 800-vertical foot climb but I ask her about the west side trail which looks a tad bit longer.

She warns, "They're both about the same distance, but the west one is a strenuous hike through boulder fields. You're climbing over rocks almost the entire time."

I know she’s trying to discourage me, but, she couldn't have excited this Colorado girl more! I haven't been through a boulder field in years!

But by the time I get the trail map and make it to the trailhead I’ve used up another precious 15 minutes. Now I’m down to 90 minutes of free time. I climb out of the car and look up at the rather extravagant trailhead marker.

Woulda…taken the easy route if I didn’t feel like that was the “old person’s route”.

TWO HOURS for a mile and a half hike? Hah! I know I can do it in half that. I start my brisk walk up the trail but soon am entranced by the quiet green forest, the gentle breeze through the trees, and cautiously stepping through the rough rock trail. I remind myself with every step, "It's the journey, not the destination that matters."

Within minutes I reach a dead end. I look around. Not a trail marker in site. Not even in 360 degrees of sight. I retrace my steps, still no markers. I continue to retrace my steps. Still no marker.

Coulda…made it to the top if I was willing to stretch my limits.

I continue backtracking to the main trail where I have a decision to make. I’m now down to an hour of time and while the trail is not strenuous for me, it is challenging my coordination. (I can trip on flat ground!)

I surrender and head toward the trailhead. I’m disappointed, knowing that I’m missing a surely spectacular view at the top.

Shoulda...managed my time for success, especially when it’s my own I’m spending.

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