Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.

Take a walk with me. But bring the map.


As you know I’m in Alabama. You’d think it would be warm being in the South, and it sort of is. It’s warmer than up where I came from. But it’s not really warm.

Looking at both sides.

I arrived late Friday night. Saturday was cold and rainy, but Sunday the sky brightened and turned into big puffy white and grey clouds and it got way up into the 60s! I just knew I had to take advantage of the weather, so I headed over to Smith Mountain.

The beginning of the fire road around the mountain. One of Katie’s favorite places to walk. Mine too.

You’ve heard me talk about Smith Mountain before. You can climb up the mountain and then climb up a fire tower that sits on top of the mountain and you have a glorious view of Lake Martin.

From another year, another hike up the mountain.

It’s one of my favorite things to do, but I didn’t do that on Sunday.

No, Sunday the parking lot was full of cars when I arrived and I didn’t want to deal with a fire tower filled with masked or unmasked people. Plus I wasn’t in the mood to climb the mountain.

So I took the walk around the base of the mountain. It’s one of Katie’s favorite places to walk, a big fire road that circles around to the back of the mountain.

The water is low, but the area behind the mountain is still beautiful.

She and I never tried to go all the way around the mountain, because I wasn’t sure if the road actually did that and I didn’t want to get stuck with her and have to make her walk all the way back. So we usually turned around on the backside of the mountain.

She was never happy about turning around.

Little stuff caught my attention too.

So this time I thought I’d just see if the road (which I used as a trail, though it is not part of the trail system, went all the way around. It made sense that it might end up right back at the parking lot.

Lots of interesting shapes and colors.

I was so confident I didn’t look at the map posted at the beginning. I figured it would all work out. I also didn’t take any water. And I accidently left my phone in the car. But I had my camera, so all was good. Right? Of course right!

Such pretty colors on Sunday!

I stopped and got lots of pictures, and when I got to the spot where Katie and I always turned around I figured since the road/trail continued, a nice wide path that had obviously been used, I’d just keep going too.

Hmmmm, are the clouds looking kind of stormy?

Eventually I got to a spot that said “To the tower this way,” and “To the parking lot this way.” Bingo! The parking lot was only .4 miles away! (disclaimer, I was already sort of tired and was disappointed it was .4 miles away, I figured it should be around the next corner.)

This looks promising!

So I kept going on the nice wide path, covered in pine needles. Which got narrower and narrower and there were no more signs and it didn’t seem to be going in the direction that I thought the parking lot should be.

Eventually I saw a pink mark on a tree, and I thought “GOOD! At least I’m on some sort of trail. Maybe I can figure out where this goes!”

Is this trail really going anywhere I want to go?

But shortly after that I saw houses off in the distance where there should be no houses, and water on my left when it should have been on my right. And I knew this was not going to get me to the parking lot. Plus I’d been walking a long time and surely had traveled .4 miles by now.

So I turned around and went back and eventually crossed a trail that had a blue mark painted on a tree and I figured maybe that was a good sign (if I’d looked at the map I’d have known I needed to stay on blue!) Using the sun as a guide for which direction I was going I headed out, hoping it was toward the parking lot.

Maybe THIS is the right way.

A fisherman came the other way and I asked him how far to the parking lot (acting like I KNEW I was on the right path) and he said about half a mile. Sigh. But at least I knew I’d get there eventually!

I see a car!!

When I finally made it to the parking lot I smiled a lot, and then I studied the map, and figured I had taken some of the blue trail, some of the fire road, some of the pink trail and a whole lot of who knows what. I wasn’t at all sure where I’d been, but it sure had been pretty!

When I finally got home I had sweated through my shirt, sweatshirt and jacket. I opened all the windows, and enjoyed the lovely breeze.

After a long drink of water I decided to download the pictures, and noticed that the memory chip that belongs in my camera was sitting on the kitchen table. Which meant it wasn’t in my camera during that walk. Sigh. Double sigh.

I was really sad.

Monday it was very cold, no sun, sleet and rain. No walking around the mountain for me.

But Tuesday, oh Tuesday was bright and sunny! Not a cloud in the sky. I set out for the mountain, determined to retake the best of the pictures I’d gotten on Sunday. And ready to figure out the right way to walk around the mountain.

OK. Here’s the map. I’m sure you’d have had no trouble figuring this out. But most of the fire road isn’t even ON this map.

I studied the map again before I started out. I even took a picture of it in case I needed it out in the field. I am a slow learner, but I eventually figure it out. The fire road isn’t on the map, but it connects two sections of the blue trail and you need to stay on the blue trail to get back to the parking lot…except when it’s a white trail. Either way, DO NOT GET ON THE PINK TRAIL.

Tuesday was windy, with no clouds. The tall pines were waving in the breeze.

And just before I started I checked my camera to make sure the memory card was in there. And remembered this new camera has 2 slots for 2 memory cards. And guess what? There were two memory cards in there.

It was a beautiful day, not as warm as Sunday, so I wore my winter coat.

Which means there was probably a memory card in the camera on Sunday. Which means that the pictures I took on Sunday were probably on that other card. Which means that I really didn’t have to walk around the mountain again.

Pretty stuff everywhere. But pay attention to where you are this time.

Except I really wanted to prove to myself that I could figure out the right trail.

So I did.

And here’s what I learned. It might apply to life in general too.

When you come to an choice of paths to take and there are no signs, and one path seems easier, wide and sunny and covered with soft pine needles, and the other path looks tough, uphill, rocky and narrow, take the harder path, and look for signs that you’re on the right one.

This is where I made my mistake on Sunday. See that path to the left? I never saw it. The sign that says parking lot .4 miles? It has an arrow that points slightly UP. The correct path is the one on the left. The easy path is the one on the right. But that takes you to the PINK trail! WRONG WRONG WRONG!

The easier path will never get you where you need to go.

And that’s the truth. Every place I had to make a decision, if I took the easier choice I never saw a blue (or any) mark on a tree denoting the correct trail. So I’d backtrack and try the other option and there would be that comforting mark.

Even when it seems like you need to be a mountain goat, follow the harder path, it’s the right one.

Every single time if I took the harder option I soon learned I was on the right trail.

Keep your eye out for trail markings, those blue rectangles mean you’re heading in the right direction.

Let that be a lesson for us all.

If you just look there are always signs to point you on your way.

And may you always find your way, following your own personal markers in life.

Signs of spring.

PS: Happy birthday, Dad. I’m at your house, adventuring in some of your favorite places. I know you’re with me. But you would have looked at the map first. I know. Lesson learned. 🙂

Author: dawnkinster

I'm a long time banker having worked in banks since the age of 17. I took a break when I turned 50 and went back to school. I graduated right when the economy took a turn for the worst and after a year of library work found myself unemployed. I was lucky that my previous bank employer wanted me back. So here I am again, a long time banker. Change is hard.

39 thoughts on “Take a walk with me. But bring the map.

  1. lol, the path less taken. Besides always taking the path less taken, the other big thing to remember is that if you are going to be hiking for an hour or more, always bring water, particularly if it is 60 F and you are used to 16 F! It does sound like a great hike, lost or not, and glad you had a good time. Hope you did recover all of the photos (I never take the memory out of my camera, for that reason). Enjoy your time down there!


    • Good morning Trent! Yes, most of the images in this post were from that first walk on Sunday. And Monday, though it was only in the low 40s I had water with me. And a heavier coat, so I still sweated plenty. Today looks cloudy, so will probably stay inside and paint.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been lost, and I’ve forgotten a memory card. I’d say you recovered nicely!


  3. Good lessons, beautiful walk. Happy birthday in memory of your father.


  4. Scary to get lost! It happens to me a lot (or used to, when I went places). Glad it turned out OK!


    • Wasn’t really too scary, I could hear people up on the mountain and I could have just gone up the trail to the top, and taken the normal way back down. But I didn’t really want to climb any more of the mountain. I’m glad it turned out OK too!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. “The easier path will never get you where you need to go.”

    There’s the truth of life, isn’t it? I’m sorry you got lost, that’s scary and can be discouraging, but your photos are wonderful to see.


  6. The harder path – the path less taken – always take the high path? There goes my dreams of skating through life! I must say, however, that my virtual following paths with you seems like taking the easier path. The beauty without the effort.


  7. You know what Yogi Berra always said: ‘When you come to a fork in the road, take it.’ Yeah, he’d be no help….. What a beautiful area. My husband would be in heaven hiking around there.


  8. The rode less traveled is always a good idea. I think your first choice to not follow the crowd and climb the fire tower was the best decision. I enjoyed this walk Dawn. You have a great sense of humor and your images reflect peace and tranquility. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run out to the beach only to realize I have forgotten my SD card. I always carry my phone though, so all is not lost.


    • This time I forgot and left my phone in the car, so I was in trouble either way. I’m so glad I have two cards in my camera. This is the first camera I’ve owned like that so it didn’t occur to me before I really looked.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. We went for a walk today. We didn’t look at the map but I know that neither of the trails there is a loop, you have to turn around and walk back the way you came. I didn’t take too many pictures, some dogs wouldn’t sit still.


  10. Dawn, I imagine your dad was chuckling over your failure to take a map on this walk! And let’s just not breathe a word to the princess (because I can just see her grinning, too!) What a lovely tour. Doesn’t surprise me you had to wear your winter coat. Even 60 degrees in the South can feel COLD — must have something to do with the damp air! Hope you’re having fun … and relaxing!


  11. A lot of good lessons in this post. And beautiful photos. I’m glad you’re getting a chance to enjoy some warmer weather and sunshine. Have fun. 🙂


    • Only a couple of the days have had sun…3 I think, so in a week I guess that isn’t too bad, now that I do the math. I’m ok with little sun too, even rain, those are good napping days. Or painting. Or reading, but reading leads to napping. It’s a vicious circle around here.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. DO NOT GET ON THE PINK TRAIL! Words to live by! 🙂 Glad that you discovered that you actually did get photos both days, and they’re all nice to see.


    • Yes, that was a pretty cool realization! I’ve never had a camera with room for two memory cards before! And definitely, I think in life in general it’s best not to get on the pink trail!


  13. Death by Pink Trail. I love it when you find humor when you get (not lost) turned around. Love the first picture through the window.


  14. Lessons learned on the paths of life and leisure, Dawn. Exquisite images! 60 degrees and sweet in the winter, sounds heavenly as we brace for the teens and 20s next week here in Spokane. At least the sun will be out!


    • That was the warmest day of the week I’ve been here. We also had a day in the 20s with sleet and rain. But on the whole it’s nicer here than where I came from. They got 3 inches of snow last night. We just got rain.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Love it… and could so relate! Can’t tell you how many times I have neglected the trail map and ended up on an unintended adventure!
    Glad you got the pictures after all.


  16. Ha! Here’s to colored trails … and maps. Really great photos Dawn, as always. And a super life lesson. There’s a sign on a small billboard near my home … anything in life that has a shortcut to it, isn’t worth getting to.


  17. Love the photos and your story! It’s true. Those color Marlins on paths can be really confusing.


  18. Beautiful pictures! I’m glad that you had a memory card after all!


  19. Nice hike and you learned a lot! I bet Katie misses you! Enjoy the warmth!! 🙂


  20. Pingback: The Weekly Smile Recap for 2/1/2021 – 2/7/2021 #weeklysmile | Trent's World (the Blog)

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