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A worst-case scenario

Last month I addressed this subject, before almost immediately became an unwitting participant in exactly what I had advised against. During a cruise to the Norwegian Fjords in early August, I decided to join the ship’s $94.95 “Hiking on the Hardanger Plain” shore excursion from the small town of Eidfjord.

This supposed “hike” was little more than a forced march up an extremely muddy, steep hillside with much standing water and slippery terrain. The destination was a small plain without any significant importance, then a much easier descent, mostly over developed walkways and roads. No information on the flora and fauna was provided by the young, athletic-type “guide,” apparently a mountain climber, but obviously not a professional tour director.

Although the scenic vistas along the way were okay, they were nothing special, so the hike’s real purpose (other than providing strenuous exercise) was open to question. We were given a quick ten minutes at the conclusion of the hike to view and photograph a truly breathtaking canyon with towering waterfalls.

As an experienced hiker, I know that even this could have been a reasonably enjoyable experience had it simply been more relaxed. Nevertheless, we were led up the very primitive trail at a breakneck pace that was probably normal for the guide, but hardly appropriate for typical cruise guests sloshing through water and mud. We had no time to relax and “smell the roses,” since the only goal appeared to be getting to the top of the ridge as quickly as possible.

The description of the trip in the shore excursion flier should have mentioned the very steep climb, as well as the substantial elevation gain along the way. One lady was injured in a fall while trying to keep up, others slipped and fell without injury, and instructions to “bring a dry pair of socks” were laughable after our shoes had been completely filled with muddy water.

On Labor Day, I made another visit to Mount Rainier, taking several relatively short hikes, none of which would be particularly taxing for the average tour participant. One this occasion, however, I did pause to closely inspect Mother Nature’s handiwork. The accompanying photographs provide some idea of the beauty I encountered along the way, sights, which I would have passed by and missed completely had I followed the example of my Norwegian hiking adventure.

Morning dew on plants beside the trail

Gray’s Nutcracker

Fascinating wildflowers