My wife suggest this post while we were hiking in the mountains in Utah and it started to rain lightly. She said, “Dear husband, I do not want to be immortalized in the Darwin Awards when we slide off the side of a mountain to our deaths because we were hiking in the rain.” We turned around and returned to the hotel.
For those of you who have never heard of the Darwin Awards, it is a website (www.darwinawards.com) whose stated purpose is to “salute the improvement of the human genome by honoring those who accidentally remove themselves from it….”
In other words, the human species is better off when those who do stupid, dangerous things die because they cannot pass on their genes to future generations. I am not saying that it is a good thing to laugh at the deaths of others, but it is interesting to look at some of the creative ways people have managed to accidentally end their lives.
Since that hike turned out to be shorter than we had planned, and I have pathological need to get my money’s worth, so to speak, I headed right back up the mountain to get my hiking fix. And that’s where the Darwin Award became a more likely possibility. Hiking alone is one reason. Should I have encountered a life threatening situation, I would have to figure out how to take care of it myself. That could me falls, badly twisted ankle or knee, bad bear or rattlesnake encounters. Hiking alone can be dangerous.
The greater danger, however, was a result of my time limit. In order to be back in time to go out to lunch with my wife, I had only two hours. This was a problem. I wanted to go back and do the entire original hike we had planned and that was probably 7-8 miles which would not have fit into my two hour window. So, what’s a guy to do?
To save time, I headed straight up the mountain on a service road posted with no hiking and no biking signs. It was incredibly steep and exhausting. I climbed about 1,800 vertical feet in about 30 minutes and needed a few minutes to recover before I could move on. At around the 45 minute mark, I found the anticipated turnaround point for the hike and then quickly descended via the trail to meet make my 2 hour window. It was a speedy descent, including a little running, but I made it. Close enough anyway – 6.22 miles in 2:06 hours.
Once back at the hotel, I realized that I had acted in a much more dangerous way than would have been the case had I been able to hike without the time limit. I climbed an incredibly steep service road where hiking wasn’t allowed. I was rather light-headed and my legs were a bit wobbly while walking near steep drop offs because of the fast ascent. And I hiked much faster than is necessarily safe on the way down because I was trying to meet my two hour window.
So it wasn’t the earlier hike with my wife which was done at a reasonable pace, on established trails, in light rain that was risky. It was my self-imposed 6.2 miles in 2 hours second hike which was more likely to get me into the Darwin Awards.
I entitled this post “Darwin Award by Proxy” which suggests that my wife put me in danger, but that’s not the case. I asked her what she wanted to do and when, but I’m sure there was flexibility. Instead, I took her answer as a strict two hour limit, and then attempted to fit my original objective into the shortened window, rather than modifying my plans or suggesting a later lunch.
So, in reality, I am actually the dangerous one. I don’t like to change my plans, and sometimes that means I make unwise decisions when the constraints tighten. That’s an interesting realization to have at 53 years old. Well, at least I have already passed on my genes if I do end up in the Darwin Awards someday.