The art and necessity of trailblazing...

Author's note up front... this is a metaphorical journey that you are about to embark on. Do not worry, this will be fun.

The beaten path

The beaten path

If you live in the northern hemisphere, you are probably getting a little anxious for spring to arrive, as it has been a long winter. Yesterday it was in the air; the day was sunny, the air was clear, and relatively speaking, it was a balmy - 4 Celsius. With this in mind, I found myself hiking at a local conservation area; wandered through the snow off the beaten path (I obviously didn't read the sign). It was here that it struck me I was a bit of a trailblazer. I should be clear upfront that I have hiked and scrambled over these rocks before and I know the area, but now it was covered with thick blanket of snow; fresh and new.

A trailblazer is a person who blazes a trail for others to follow through unsettled country or wilderness. Now in the most literal sense, I wasn't really trail blazing as many people have wandered this area before. But today, in my current situation, there was not a trail to follow and if someone came after me they would most likely walk in my footsteps. Today, I was figuratively trailblazing - Practicing the art and necessity of trailblazing.

  • Trailblazers do not follow the blazes or the beaten path. It is also contextual, as one person's beaten path is an others undiscovered territory.

As I worked my way through the snow, it quickly became apparent that there were hidden boulders, branches and holes. Any of which could trip me up, delay my progress or if I wasn't careful, actually twist an ankle. Progress was slower, more thought-out, as I determined the best path to take. There were indicators, like trees, animal tracks and boulders not completely covered in snow to help find my way, and my hiking experience came in handy.

  • Trail blazing requires more thought and consideration as you work through it. With the beaten trail, more often than not, you can operate on autopilot.
  • Trail blazing can be an individual activity. You need to rely on your own skills and your experiences, and that may be all you have to work with.
  • When you are trailing blazing, there is a good possibility you could find yourself in an uncomfortable situation. There is risk involved.

Making my way with more confidence, I came to a steep incline with boulders and deep crevasses. Stopping to assess the situation it became apparent it was definitely riskier, particularly with the snow covering much of it. After picking up a walking stick, saying "hello" to a raccoon (who had ventured outside), and accessing my progress so far, I decided to continue on my "trailblazing" ways. There was a point where I came to a crevasse that I would have to literally leap; after reviewing the options, the foot holds and my ability, I took that leap of faith - Taking me to the place where I could see the whole valley.

  • Trailblazing involves constant evaluation of the situation so you can modify your approach and acquire the tools you may need.
  • Believe in your abilities and convictions, sometimes there will be a "leap of faith". 
  • You will see wonderful things on the way.

The return journey was not as technically challenging for my footing, but the snow had gotten deeper. The final part of my trek was just tiring, as knee high snow is a challenge to walk in but in the end, I got back to where I started. The air had refreshed me, I felt a sense of accomplishment, I saw some unexpected things and developed my hiking skills.

  • Sometimes trailblazing is just tiring.
  • It develops and reinforces your ability.
  • You can see and experience wonderful things.
  • You learn from trailblazing.

There you have it, my literal and figurative journey through the snow. As I was finding my way, I kept thinking of these words* -

On and on you will hike
and I know you'll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.
You'll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You'll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life's
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.
And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed! 

Trailblazing advocates challenging yourself with the new and different. And in that, prepares for the people who will eventually follow in your foot steps. This is the birthplace of experience and wisdom.


* From the book, "Oh, the places you'll go" by Dr Seuss.