Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hurricanes and Hills

Have you ever noticed how two people can share the same experience yet have totally different reactions to the event?  If you read my last post, you know that I was off cruising the Caribbean very recently while celebrating my 25th wedding anniversary.  My husband and I had the added pleasure of Hurricane Sandy’s company on our voyage.  Yes, I said pleasure and let me explain why.
The first five days of our cruise were blessed with the sun shining brightly and the tropical blue waters gently rolling and providing their usual soothing effect on all the passengers. 

It was the ideal Caribbean experience, but on the return leg of our trip with one remaining stop scheduled for the Bahamas, the situation began to change.  Suddenly, there was word of a hurricane in our path and she was headed for our exact destination; we would have to cancel our stop in the Bahamas and the captain wisely decided to detour around the storm to the west.  The plan was to allow the hurricane to continue on its northerly trail putting distance between the ship and the storm, then to turn north and follow the trailing winds into port arriving close to our scheduled time.  This would allow everyone to connect to their scheduled flights or continue their other travel plans without further interruption. Later that day, we learned the hurricane’s name was Sandy.

Sandy.  Of all names that it could be, this one immediately made us laugh. Not because Sandy comes from Sandra which comes from Alexandra which is the feminine of Alexander; you know, the Great; the man who swiftly blew across the Middle East and into Asia conquering everything in his path.  No, we laughed because our youngest daughter is named Sandy, primarily after my mother.  Both of these women are known for their dynamic and often stormy personalities. 
Additionally, this brought back memories of when I was pregnant with Sandy and the first couple months of her infancy.  See, when I was with swollen belly and would lie next to my husband at night, Sandy would kick intensely forcing me to move away from him.  After she was born, even while being in her own crib in another room, if her father and I would snuggle up or even think about having an intimate moment, she would cry on cue the moment we touched each other.  How she knew, we didn’t know, but here we are on a romantic getaway and once again, Sandy is interrupting our intimacy.  All we could do was laugh and enjoy the memory and the moment. 

So on we sail as the waves begin to increase in size.  No longer are they a gentle rolling turquoise or cobalt blue; now the water has taken on a midnight blue with white caps curling on the peaks and white sprays reaching even higher in the air misting the deck and porthole windows.
The ship’s bow has begun to rise up while climbing waves, pitching, peaking and sliding down the other side of these watery hills.  The waves slap the bottom and sides of the vessel with a deep boom that reverberates through the hull like an out of tune Chinese gong.  Night is beginning to fall and the wind is whirling and whipping the waves into higher and higher mountains with valleys far below. Now what does any of this have to do with hiking or my original question?  Bear with me, I’m getting to that.
Any field of interest or hobby you undertake requires learning a set of new vocabulary with it.  In the hiking world, PUDs, or pointless ups and downs are one of the new terms to which I’ve been introduced.  Apparently, during routine maintenance, trails are often re-routed for various reasons.  Often these new routes will extend the previous trail length and climb up every conceivable peak.  This is why the Appalachian Trail length has grown from 2,044 miles in 1948 to its current 2,184 miles. 
Unfortunately, many of these added peaks do not result in the majestic views that most look forward to as a reward for climbing and conquering the mountain, thereby, leaving the hiker disappointed in their efforts.  Hence, these climbs have been dubbed pointless and some hikers will avoid them altogether by hiking the previous trail route which is marked by a blue blaze instead of the white blaze for the official trail.  (Blazes are a 2” x 6” vertical bar painted on trees or rocks to mark the trail.) 
Hikers who are adamant about following only the white blazes are known as Purists and they tend to look down on the Blue-Blazers who shorten the journey by taking the side trails which are often more scenic and less strenuous.  Purists will only take these blue-blazed side trails to reach the shelters at night or as a weather-advised detour due to obstructions or hazards that prevent them from continuing on the white-blazed trail, much like our captain’s decision to look for bluer waters to avoid the whitecap peaks of the storm.
And just like our vessel took an alternative route hoping for a smoother ride, this does not always prove to give the intended result.  There are occasions when the blue-blazed trail can be just as strenuous, or even more so, than the white-blazed trail.  Not that I can say our original route was even an option for our cruise ship, not without risking the lives of all the passengers and crew, but we still had a much rougher ride than our dear captain intended for us.
So, how did we fare the night you ask?  Well, this brings me back to my original question concerning shared experiences and differing reactions.  No, it wasn’t my husband and I who had the differences; we both took the storm in stride; albeit, I had a little more enthusiasm than he did throughout the night as he was trying to get some sleep and I was too busy enjoying the show outside the porthole window.  (I mean, gee whiz, when am I going to get another opportunity to ride up and down 30-50 foot waves?)  No, it was the next morning, and even into this week while reading the various reports about what happened that night, that I truly realized how different perspectives can be in a single event.
There have been multiple criticisms of our captain who I believe did a wonderful job keeping everyone safe and trying to maintain the travel schedules of his passengers.  We arrived just 2 hours behind our scheduled docking time and although most of us ended up having to reschedule flights, it appeared to be more due to the delays once in port than our delayed arrival.  And, please remember, we arrived safely!  There were alternatives to that result.
Many passengers and even many crew members that I spoke with the next morning stated that they spent the night scared out of their minds.  While I don’t mean to belittle anyone’s fears; it is the Halloween season, after all; personally, I enjoyed the added excitement and opportunity for a unique adventure.  It certainly was a very memorable anniversary. 
Also, I have to be fair in my assessment and add that my husband and I were in the most ideal location onboard for the conditions.  Our stateroom was on deck 2, mid-ship, so we were very near the center fulcrum, whereas, if you were more forward or backward and at a higher deck level, your swings in elevation were probably much more dramatic than ours.  And I certainly have a lot of sympathy for those individuals who suffer with motion or sea-sickness.  I can understand why, for them, this was not a pleasant experience.
But, the point that I want to drive home with this discussion is this; the ship climbed multiple white-capped waves with little view at the top throughout the night and slid back down into the dark, watery valleys below seemingly getting nowhere; yet each up and down took us forward toward our destination.  Maybe you consider the climbs up mountains with no views as pointless and you’d prefer the more tranquil path of blue; so be it.  Each step, on a white-blaze or on a blue-blazed trail, takes you one step closer to your destination.  So, it’s back to the trail mantra; whether you are the purist whitecap or bouncing blue wave, hike your own hike. 
As for this ship, well, I enjoy those whitecaps and the ride they provide, but I won’t rule out an occasional scenic blue sailing past a peak for a restful repose.  The trail is supposed to offer freedom from the rigid rules of the world and while I don’t believe in being reckless and aim to reach my goal safely, I am also planning on throwing open my sails and let’s just see where the winds blows me, eh?