I recently led a backpacking trip for high school sophomores. Often we would catch up to the sophomores to find them sitting on the ground looking discouraged.
"What's going on?" we'd ask them. "What happened?"
"Well I feel like maybe we missed something or we passed it." Their reply always included something about the distance on the map to the junction or the campsite and their sense of how long and how far they'd hiked. (Often it had only been 15 minutes since they last stopped.)
But of course, they had no watches to tell time and no way to measure distances. Most of the time they were entirely on the right trail and just had to go a little further. Sometimes the campsite was just around the bend.
We chalked it up to youthfulness and inexperience. But how often do we doubt ourselves--doubt whether we're on the right path, whether we've missed a turn--only to find out that we just had to be patient and keep going?
The trails in the Smokey Mountains have a way of winding uphill in such a way that leaves one worn out and exhausted, muscles burning, seeing the top of the ridge, and thinking surely we must be almost there. It must be just around the bend, and if not that one, surely the next.
Through this experience, we learn to trust ourselves and our judgment. To rest when we need to rest, eat when we're hungry, drink when we're thirsty, and take care of ourselves along the way. But otherwise, we just keep hiking. We'll get there when we get there, and worst-case scenario, we'll realize we hiked the wrong mountain and have to go back down and start again on a different one. 😉😉
But we've always got each other, and we're carrying everything we need on our backs.