Joco Diversions

While it usually pays to plan, unexpected adventures can thrill

This view made the grueling hike worth the pain.
This view made the grueling hike worth the pain. Special to The Star

I’ve turned into a bad influence.

It was only a matter of time, my oldest friends will say, but it was still a surprise.

The realization came when I was rounding up the things I needed for the weekly meeting of my son’s Boy Scouts troop, where I’m one of the adult leaders. I reached for my laptop and noticed the sticker I’d put on it a few days earlier.

Under a dramatic picture of three craggy mountaintops were the words “Adventure starts where plans end.”

Maybe not exactly the message to be carrying to scout meetings. I mean, that’s where I’m supposed to be helping kids learn that before they they head out for so much as a short day hike, they need to plan thoroughly enough to be able to tell people exactly where they’re going and exactly when they’ll be back.

Beats hoping that circling vultures will alert your buddies that you need a search party.

But between us, away from the scouts’ ears, that’s not where the real fun is.

Sure, there is something to be said for making plans before you head into the wild, as I learned with some friends way back in my teens when we were huddled in a tent a few miles up a steep trail from our truck with rain pounding down like we’d pitched camp in a waterfall.

Any sane person would have turned back when the dark clouds started rolling in, while the path back to the trailhead was still more trail than mudslide.

But you’ll recall I’m not talking about sane people here. I’m talking about teenage boys.

One of our dads had made the mistake of telling us there was no way we were going to last in the mountains given what the weatherman was saying, and it wasn’t worth the drive seeing as we’d just have to hightail it back to town as soon as the rain started.

Of course, to teenagers that just meant there was no way we could show our faces back home all weekend no matter what the storm did to us.

Thankfully we’d planned well enough, so we had shelter and shovels and firestarters enough to survive those couple of days and prove to our parents that we had the competence to make up for our stupidity.

So OK, score one for planning.

But the best memories come when adventure far outruns the plan.

Fun as that camping trip was, it didn’t come close to my best trip up a mountain.

That honor goes to the time my wife and I were driving around Seattle and thought that lunch on a trail sounded like a good way to soak up the good weather for a couple hours.

Stocked with bread, cheese, a few bottles of water and a big helping of cluelessness, we got out of our car at a trailhead that looked promising and started walking.

The fact that we’d just recently flown in from the Kansas City flatlands is the only excuse I can think of for forgetting that the trail to a mountain peak is a challenge that rewards training and planning more than it does the blind setting of one foot in front of the other.

We came to that realization early in a grueling 4-mile ascent during which we honed our ability to snap at each other in the short gasps of breath our out-of-shape lungs allowed.

But the view we ended up with of some of God’s prettiest land rolling 30 miles to the sea was more than a fair trade for the pain that would wrack our legs for the next couple days.

And the fact that we hadn’t planned for it — that we had been, in fact, almost completely unprepared to attempt it — turned the summit view into a precious stolen thing that we’d somehow gotten away with.

Just don’t tell the scouts.

Richard Espinoza is a former editor of the Johnson County Neighborhood News. You can reach him at