Elegant problem solving or simply a bad decision?

The following is the original and the rewrite can be found by clicking here.

The beauty that is Iceland

The beauty that is Iceland

My last trip had me trekking through the highlands of Iceland where we would ultimately walk almost 100 kilometres and explore the beauty that is Iceland... as part of this sojourn we were told beforehand we would be making some knee high river crossings and water shoes were a required item to be packed. 

I happen to have a great pair of water sandals that are designed for the wilderness but I also have a pair of sandals that where in my hockey bag and are more or less designed for keeping your feet off those nasty shower floors. I was concerned that my travel bag was already too full so I went with the lighter more disposable sandals as frankly I only had two short crossings and if I lost these sandals... no big deal.

Up front I want to say Iceland's beauty is beyond description so my advice is to go if you are able as no words I have can describe it.

As I look back on my travels and ultimately at the MacGyver-like* solution that I came up with I wanted to deconstruct the situation, the problem and ultimately the solution as it allows some insight into one person's thinking process. Keep in mind two things, the whole situation I'm about to share with you took about 15 minutes from problem to solution ...and that Icelandic rivers are very, very cold - as well as fast moving and rocky -  Shall we begin?

About seven kilometres into the hike that day we came down an embankment to the first river we needed to cross... first a small stream to cross and then 30 meters to the main river bank. Putting on my sandals, with hiking boots around my neck, I began to cross the small stream. In turn the strap of one of my sandals separated from the sole of the sandal and it fell from my foot as reached the other side. Recognizing quickly it was an issue with the adhesive, I was hoping I could insert the strap back into place and use my weight to hold it secure. Three failed attempts at making this work left me at the rivers edge with a broken sandal and a sore foot as I walked the last ten meters with one sandal. The problem had been identified, a number of attempts at denial and wishful solutions were tried and now a ten minute deadline to determine a solution was in effect while people gathered and the guide reviews the process of crossing - most definitely a factor of pride came into play as I really did not want to be the guy holding everyone up.

The assessment of possible solutions begins:

Cross in bare feet - River very rocky and slippery and could result in an injured foot or slipping and falling into the water. Because of the nature of how we cross as a group** I could take others "down with the ship". Overall too risky and REJECTED

Cross in my hiking boots - Solves my immediate problem but I still had to hike over  15 more kilometres and in wet boots it would be very uncomfortable and increases the chances of blisters and foot problems. LAST RESORT OPTION

An Elegant Solution?

An Elegant Solution?

Repair my sandal - viable option and worth considering. My thought process is as follows - 1)  I could glue it back together which was rejected without much thought as I am lacking waterproof glue that can dry on wet surfaces in 7 minutes. 2) Duct tape!... the wonder material which I have, but not in my day pack... So close!! 3) I could sew it back together - a viable solution as I have the material and in theory it should work. SOLUTION IDENTIFIED

There you have it - one knife, one boot lace and some fundamental sewing skills. I had literally repaired it as we were lining up to cross the river. Viability assessment of possible solutions, solution identified and implemented. 

Looking back on a cold but successful river crossing I reviewed my sandal repair and determined that no changes were needed for the next crossing. Problem resolution reviewed with any required changes.

My repaired sandals ultimately served me well and a couple of people even called me MacGyver for my ability to think quickly and solve the problem with ordinary things around me. I felt good that I was able to think on my feet so quickly.

But you know...if I had made the decision to bring my proper water sandals in the first place then none of this would have happen. So there you have it... fun story as the result of a bad decision.


* MacGyver was a TV show out of the late 80's where the hero solved his weekly challenges with elegant solutions involving ordinary items like binder twine, bubble gum and balsa wood.

**When crossing a river as a group you line up behind each other holding onto the person in front of you to form a chain... this adds stability in the current and reduces the chances of falling