We weren’t dressed appropriately for the type of hike we were about to embark upon. The park ranger saw it but didn’t say anything as we talked about our plans to hike Gunsight Loop.
Of course we changed to hiking boots when we got to the start of the trail and had all the gear we’d need even if we had to spend the night. That wasn’t the plan but we were hiking in wilderness and well, you have to be prepared.
There are no markers or even an indication of the start of the trail. Knowing that it would be strenuous, requiring some climbing, we double checked our supplies and started the journey. After an hour of non-stop climbing we took a break for lunch.
Signing the Contract
Starting a business, even with the help of a franchise to guide you, is like setting off into a wilderness. Others have done it but far fewer than you think. The destination is the same but each route is slightly different and preparation is crucially important.
After signing the franchise agreement we embarked on a search to find the best location for our business. This required visiting various locations and studying the people and traffic in the area. Would I shop here, was our main concern. Once the site was chosen, we negotiated the lease.
Making the Turn
Very few people hike this trail and some areas were overgrown causing us to crawl through some brush and even miss a turn which we eventually corrected. Once we were back on course, we began to descend, believing we were making a turn back toward our starting location. That’s when the first sign of trouble emerged. According to the GPS we were still headed away from our car.
The other problem that became apparent was that climbing up wasn’t so bad but climbing down was much harder. In some areas we had to lower our gear first then carefully climb down as far as we could, jumping the last few feet.
We still weren’t sure if we were going the right way. Coming upon a climb we couldn’t do was also a real possibility meaning we’d have to turn back. Then there was the concern of injury, of twisting or breaking an ankle, forcing the other to go for help, not knowing if they would make it or come upon an impassable obstacle.
The last issue we were running up against was time. Sunset was still a little while away, but in the mountains the sun becomes obscured ealy. At some point continuing to climb down would become treacherous.
From Planning to Doing
Once the lease was signed and we were given the keys, all the planning needed to be put into action. The contractor was hired, equipment orders began to be placed, and training was scheduled. The search for our first employee, the manager of the spa, was started.
Thinking we were getting closer to our goal of opening before the important Christmas shopping season, we soon realized that there was a long way yet to go. First Hurricane Sandy delayed contstruction, then noise issues affected costs and materials, then licensing and permits were the final obstacle. We opened two months later than anticipated.
The preparation was difficult, but operation made everything that came before seem trivial and easy. From customers to employees, from the landlord to neighboring stores, there was always something vying for our attention. The fact that Julie and I kept our regular, full-time jobs in addition to the spa didn’t make things any easier.
Finally we could see level ground and while the GPS was telling us we were closer to the car, we were not as close as we wanted. There was still plenty of distance to go. The fear and anxiety we felt on the climb down, the possibility that we would have to spend the night was fading now.
No matter how prepared you are, no one wants to find themselves stuck, unable to navigate to the safety of their car and then home. As we climbed down the last of the boulders and began the walk back to the car, the fear began to subside. As the car became visible I stopped and looked back at where we had just been.
“That was the best hike ever,” I yelled. Julie just shook her head.
Stopping back at the ranger station, which we were surprised was still open, we learned that the ranger had is eye on our car. With binoculars he could see that we hadn’t made it back to the car by his closing time. If we weren’t back by sundown, he’d send a search party.
After five years of operating the spa and growing the business from just four employees to 30, while maintaining our full time jobs, we decided it was time to sell.
Along this journey there were times when we thought we might not make it, that some obstacle would be too big or the climb was too steep. We lost sleep and worried, but we also learned and grew, gained strength and experience.
With the passage of time I’m willing to look back and think, I’d do this again some day. Julie is still shaking her head.
*PS: The last image above is from an amazing website called Stavislost.com and if you enjoy hiking and plan to be on the west coast I’d definitely check out his site for ideas of where to hike and what to expect.