Risk and Peril

So danah wrote a very good article about some of the fears that come with parenting. Go read it.

This weekend I put my child and I into dangerous situations. These were truly perilous.

We hiked up through the Big Branch wilderness to the top of Baker Peak. Along the way, we got lost. Nobody had walked there since last year, as far as we could tell. The snow in places was still feet deep. The trail was hard to follow, and we left the path. All of a sudden, there were no blazed trees, just a mess of pine and brush and undergrowth. If we’d stayed lost — and out of cell service — it would have been a long weekend indeed. Luckily we carefully retraced our steps, and found the missed turn.

At the top of the mountain, it became very clear that we were unprepared for injury. Either one of us might have slipped, twisted an ankle hard, or landed and gouged a hand, or bashed a skull, or worse. Four hours hard hiking to the nearest roadway.


Overnight, there were certainly moose and bears in the wood. We heard some strange noises. Hungry animals. We had food (maybe coulda been food!), and only puny teaspoons and forks for weapons.

The return path ran along the edge of a steep ravine. At times, the track was just a narrow ledge, a meager ribbon between the forest and a cliff to rocks below. Parts were washed away or blocked by fallen trees. A single slip would have been tragic. We had to be alert.

There were several mountain streams to ford, in full flow from snowmelt, rushing across the rocks. A single slip would have left us cold and wet and injured, miles from help.

And there’s more I won’t even describe.

Griffith Lake, VT

Was it worth the trip, the effort? Of course. It was great.

Some of the great things were quiet and calm. One of the best things was to just walk and listen very carefully to the regular swishing of leaves underfoot and crackling twigs and forest sounds.

There was real danger and peril, but we didn’t take risks lightly. We took them seriously, and learned more about the dangers as we went. At times, both of us were afraid. I would do some things differently next time, but that’s the point. There will be a “next time”.