Outdoor Diary: What Trail Mud Taught Me About Moving Through Life

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Humans Outside episode 231

What do you do when you encounter mud on the trail? We don’t mean a little mud — we’re talking mud pits of sucking, oozy, gooey mud for miles and miles. Do you go around? Over? Through?

And what about “mud” in life?

In this episode, Amy talks about a recent outdoor mud experience and what it reminded her about handling the tough stuff when it appears. Listen now.

Some of the good stuff:

[:45] In case you need a recap of “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt”

[1:30] About the annual Lost Lake run

[2:07] What a ton – a TON – of rain does

[2:45] Here are your mud options in real life

[3:20] The temptation and what you eventually do

[4:15] What it teaches me about tough life stuff

Connect with this episode:

Read “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” (because you know you want to)

Learn about the Lost Lake trail

Join the Humans Outside Challenge

Follow Humans Outside on Facebook

Follow Humans Outside on Instagram

Listen to this episode on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.

The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Humans Outside.

When my kids were little we often read a well-known children’s book called “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury. Now, if you havent been around kids since you were one, you might not remember this classic. The premise is they decide to go exploring outside as a family. “We’re going on a bear hunt, we’re going to catch a big one! What a beautiful day. We’re not scared.”

And as they go they encounter obstacles. Each is described as the book goes through the options for tackling it. When they find mud that say “oh no! Mud! Thick, oozy mud. We cant go over it, we cant go under it. Oh no! We’ve got to go through it!”

I cannot tell you how many times that rhyme came to mind recently as I joined hundreds of people in the annual Lost Lake race in Seward Alaska. This run or hike, depending on what you want to do — and all types of racers are welcome — goes about 15 miles point to point over this absolutely incredible high alpine area. You climb up through the boreal forest, traverse miles across high tundra, and then wind back down to another trail head. If you’re ever visiting in the summer and have the option, go or hike or run it.

But we’ve been having a lot of rain over the last few months — and I mean a LOT. There has been so much rain that the mushrooms are melting into absolutely disgusting, slimy mushroom puddles. And of course that means the trail was wet.

But when you put hundreds of people on a very wet trail, what you get is mud. Lots and lots of mud. Miles of mud. Shin-deep mud puddles in some places, shoe sucking oozy mud in others, liquid sludge now and then. It’s mud that is splashed on your backside and mud that is hiding Lord only knows what rocks or holes under it.

As with our bear hunting book family, mud on a narrow trail carries limited options. Depending on how long a given stretch is, you can try to hop over it — though that ruins your running gate, and you probably have to slightly pause to decide you’re going to do that. You can try to go around it, although in many spots that means coming off the trail, which ruins the tender ground nearby. You can tenderly hop step through it so as not splash yourself too badly. Or you can run move through it just like it’s any other ground, and keep going.

As the book says: squishy, squashy, squishy, squashy.

At the beginning of any given run or hike it’s tempting to try to hop, skip and avoid the big mud and wet shoes. But then you slip a little, getting sucked in and wet anyway. By the end you’ve accepted what has clearly become the inevitable, and you’re all in, dashing through streams, puddles and mud pits.

If you’re experienced in this type of thing, maybe you skip the avoidance entirely, or maybe you accept what’s coming a little sooner than you used to. That’s because the more often you move through trail mud, the easier it gets. It may not ever be pleasant, but you do get used to it. You know what to do now.

And if all of this isn’t the best analogy for tackling tough life stuff, I dunno what is. As I thought about the mud after my run, I realized that it’s a great analogy for the cycle with which I tackle tough life stuff.

First, you try to find a way around it — to avoid it. Then, eventually, you embrace what’s happening and instead move through it. And the next time you find tough life stuff — and you definitely will, because that’s how life works — you remember what you learned the last time, and you’re a little quicker to know how to handle it as it comes. You might not ever find the tough stuff ideal, but at least you know where to see the silver lining.

And if you can do that, if tackling actual trail mud has taught you how to successfully deal with life mud, then spending time outside has given you yet another gift. And that’s a pretty cool thing.

You can see a photo of the mud in the podcast art for this episode, and a picture of exactly how pretty it was at Lost Lake on Humans Outside on Facebook and Instagram. Share your photos with me by tagging #humansoutside365.

Until next time, we’ll see you out there.

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