The term “road less traveled” is often misinterpreted from Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken,” but the intent remains the same. Frost’s poem posits an alternate path to his lyrical hike in the woods as “having perhaps the better claim, because it was grassy and wanted wear.”
Now Frost is using environmental allegory in “The Road Not Taken” to make the point that we have a choice in our lives, to follow the proverbial beaten path and automatically do as others would do. Or we can peel away the blinders and open our eyes and minds to another way to get where we’re going and where we’d like to be in life.
When was the last time you took a chance on something? Maybe you played 5 to 1 odds at the track or you might’ve shifted some of your portfolio toward a few large-cap tech stocks because you smell growth potential. You took a chance on a British murder drama on PBS instead of settling for network t.v.’s offerings or the latest critic’s darling on a trendy streaming service. You might even have tried a draft pint of crafted microbrew instead of ordering that everyday bottle of Miller Lite. In my case, you might take a huge leap of faith, not only by going out on my own and unexpectedly finding new love, but, more materially, ripping more then 800 CDs and storing them digitally onto a thumb drive before purging the hard copy.
My girlfriend, TJ and I are avid hikers and we’ve come to the realization in our travels that often it’s the side trails, the paths straying from the main flow where everyone else filters, that lure us and, so long as we keep our sense of direction, the payoffs are, more often than not, far more satisfying.
I came up with the idea of Roads Lesser Traveled following a recent getaway TJ and I had in the mountains of Deep Creek Lake. In particular, the Swallow Falls system, one of the area’s biggest attractions. Instead of catching the falls from the main entrance at the top, we discovered another way in via the bottom of the system. While there was a a fair handful of people heading onto this same unmarked trail, we took a chance on it after talking to some in-the-know local youth. At a certain point, we had this trail mostly to ourselves the deeper we ventured. We were treated to a spectacular show of rock formations, water rivulets, mushrooms and an abundance of moss you wouldn’t get on the man-made, crowded paths circumventing the high side of the falls.
TJ and I went about two miles deep into the narrowing splendor, tap-dancing around many muddy spots, but the air became more pristine from the collision of the rushing water below us and the natural seepage from the rocks at our sides. TJ thanked the earth fairies showing off for us and compared much of what we saw to the Middle Earth realm in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Frankly, we didn’t even bother making our way to the main gate after such an exhibition.
Stepping out of your comfort zone and looking at another way to reach your destination, gives most people unease. Yes, TJ and I usually stick to color-coded paths in the woods, especially in the deeper forestation of the back woods zones. Still, you never know what’s waiting for you off-the-beaten path, because it’s ingrained subliminally that we shy from we can’t see or know with full certainty. It’s often said in life itself that people fear what they can’t understand. In some cases, that creates hostility, prejudice and even nihilism. What an unhealthy way to live.
Consider, this, though; what are you missing out on by taking the same route as everyone else? Sure, popular vote often bears justification. If you’ve been to Yellowstone, it’s a guarantee a cluster of people banded together at any random spot inside that vast park is something worth joining in on, i.e. a view of some bison or a grizzly. It so happened in our Deep Creek adventures that taking a barely-blazed, grown over trail yielded TJ and I a treat in the form of a young fawn lying on its belly. It held its position a long time before taking off, and we turned direction so that we could leave the fawn in proximity of its distant doe mother. This year, we’ve been graced by up-close deer contacts on four out of our last five hikes. It would seem Cernunnos or even Lugh have been reaching out to us during this vernal equinox through their earthly horned avatars. It’s been a thrilling Beltane for us, to be sure.
I’m taking a chance by opening a new blog after a few years of inactivity. In the past, I’ve blogged about music, horror and comic books and I had very steady followings. My defunct blog, The Metal Minute was awarded Best Personal Blog by Metal Hammer magazine years ago, one of my proudest achievements. I’m excited to be writing Roads Lesser Traveled and look forward to interacting with you all, pardon the pun, down the road.
The vibe here at Roads Lesser Traveled will be to take you on journeys. While travel and hiking will have their places on this blog, I’ll also be talking metaphorically about roads lesser traveled in life, love, writing, etc. My hope is to inspire and motivate through the bandwidth uniting us here. It’s all about embracing what this world has to offer without inhibitors. It’s about going upward and onward with an adventurer’s spirit, while taking the necessary pauses to reflect, appreciate, analyze and even grieve where appropriate.
So take that plunge, that leap of faith. Overcome that faint uncertainty, all within reason, of course. Assess risk sensibly, take any necessary precautions, but don’t let that gnawing trepidation against the unknown rattle you. Take a chance. Explore a new option. It’s very much the same as life itself. Taking the road lesser traveled often yields spectacular results. Or, to paraphrase Robert Frost, of the roads that diverge in the woods or elsewhere, taking the less traveled makes all the difference.
I thank you for taking the less traveled path bringing you to my fledgling blog and hope that together we may blaze it in good company…
–Ray Van Horn, Jr.