I recently spent a week in the backcountry of the Eastern Sierras and it was in those few days that my type A personality got the best of me. The night before my friends and I left for the trailhead (South Lake, Bishop Pass Trail), I watched dumbfounded as my carefully thought out plans died at my feet. Granted, this was a new trip for me so I had planned blindly, but failure to organize was not a typical fault of mine.


It all started with the wilderness permit that my designated person waited too long to buy: reservations were booked for the next month. So we drove up a day early and hoped for a walk-in permit. Next, we forgot a tent in LA. And it stormed the night before. Ten o’clock that night and we sprawled on the living room floor of my grandparents’ house in Bishop, CA. With gear strewn everywhere, the room and my head were in shambles.

I made a few calls and ran around the neighborhood asking for a three-man tent. We got one, but it was monstrous. The deal was that if we used the tent we had to stay on a certain side of the Sierras to return it, meaning backpacking Yosemite for the second half of the week was no longer an option. Chaos ensued. We needed a new itinerary, a new wilderness permit, and researching on iPhones is a lot harder than you’d think.

After a period of heated brainstorming and note taking, I found it in my heart to just roll with it. With that, we went up the pass the next morning for an overnight stint and hadn’t a clue about where we’d spend the rest of the week.

Once we hit the trailhead, life was simple. There was the trail in front of us, the weight on our backs, and the view around us. All brilliant.

I did well for myself when I realized that the bear cans, unbeknownst to me, had been deliberately left at the house and I kept composed as one of the guys climbed a tree to set a make-shift bear hang. I did, however, kick myself inwardly when the “unnecessary” stakes to the three-man tent that I left in Bishop turned out necessary for waterproofing.

It looked like rain so we took down the useless tent and the five of us squeezed into the two-man tent we hadn’t forgotten. But that didn’t work (and I couldn’t take it) so two of us opted for a nice rock and a rain fly and ended up with the better, though wetter, night’s sleep.


The next few days went smoothly enough. We met a couple on the trail who recommended Big Pine Lakes loop, the weather forecast cleared up and we were able to buy a tarp and some stakes to make a shelter in lieu of the borrowed tent. Getting the permit for Big Pine wasn’t a problem and this time we brought the bear cans. Overall, it was an enjoyable second leg of the trip.

The drive home gave me one last run for my money as we found ourselves driving late into the night. After a detour through Yosemite, we acknowledged the foolishness of thinking we could find a campsite in high summer and so we left. We arrived home circa 2:30AM.

The next morning, as I lay ruminating, I found myself agreeing with Robert Burns who, in his poem To A Mouse, 1786, says that,  “The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry.”

This trip resolved me to let loose of my reigns on life. It convicted me that contrary to my belief, I don’t have the power create perfection and that sometimes it’s okay when life turns out messy. Sometimes, it’s even better that way. The fact is you can’t plan the moment when desperation and exhaustion turn into hysterical laughter any more than you can plan to encounter a spiritual moment at a quintessential view.

So, this is a message to the type-A adventurer but also to the go-getting business woman, the super mom, the over-achieving college student and to all other perfectionists out there: relax. Take time to sit and be still. Let other people plan. Don’t compromise a beautiful moment just because of what might be up next.

Have you had an adventure like this? What did the foiled plans teach you in the end?

Images via Teal Thomsen


  1. I think you just described me if I didn’t know better. I’m such a type A, needing everything to be planned, set, ready to go before taking a leap (in your case a trip). I get anxious from the thought of not knowing and plans being gray. Thank you for this – sometimes I just need to realize that it will all work out, somehow, even without precision planning beforehand.

  2. Kudos to you for sticking to it though! Other people might have thrown in the towel and headed home.

    I once took on a hike/climb with my inexperienced husband who wore skate boarding shoes. The hike entailed a mile long scramble through loose shale and he had no grips so we wound up turning around and going back, squabbling the whole way down the mountain. Ha ha!

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