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Saturday, September 21, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

Ammi Midstokke: If you don’t almost die, is it worth the trip?

Ammi Midstokke is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review writing about living off the grid. (The Spokesman-Review / SR)
Ammi Midstokke is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review writing about living off the grid. (The Spokesman-Review / SR)
By Ammi Midstokke For The Spokesman-Review

There’s an age-old piece of wisdom that I often forget: If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.

I am a planner by nature, and once upon a time, a project manager by trade. My life is run by a color-coded, 8-by-11 calendar where I organize recipes and meals, self-care (light blue), exercise (daily), work hours – categorized by task, to-do lists, grocery list, hair appointments, books to read, people to see, places to go. Every hour of every day is dedicated to the management of a carefully preconceived level of personal growth, productivity and the recommended eight hours of sleep.

By pre-emptively controlling all facets of life, from my calorie intake to the number of social gatherings I skillfully avoid, I live in the blissful belief that everything should go as planned. It has to, because I am certain the alternative opens some sort of wormhole to a parallel universe where I begin living on cheese burritos and cheap whiskey, replace my job with game-show watching, and raise my child to think that Vegas showgirls find good husbands.

My therapist calls this “distorted thinking.” I bet she doesn’t even have a calendar or believe that eating ice cream before bed causes cancer death by dawn.

The problem with planning, or so I am told, is the part where we have expectations, and then the more complex part where we expect the expectations to be met (silly us). Is it too much to ask that, just for once, Punxsutawney Phil’s missing shadow really does indicate the arrival of spring?

This winter has been particularly long and cold for the hobbled homesteader. In a desperate attempt to ward off the demons of dopamine deprivation and seek the therapeutic balm of sun, warmth and Mother Nature, I headed to the Grand Canyon. I expected peace of mind, dirt, T-shirts and maybe even some good, old-fashioned suffering.

It was 20 degrees on the South Rim. I wore three layers of wool. The 17-mile day didn’t give me a single blister and I never once wished for death or helicopter rescue. And some gaggle of gossiping teenage hikers in hot pants was listening to pop music that echoed down the canyon walls like a traveling disco. Honestly, it was like driving to school with my daughter, except a few of her songs actually do make me want to dive out of the vehicle while careening down the freeway.

It wasn’t at all what I expected. Everything was actually going as planned. It was, dare I say, a little boring. Nothing eventful happened. No one almost died. It was just sort of … nice.

I left Arizona rather baffled by the whole experience and wondering if this is what normal, self-actualized humans enjoy about the outdoors and various wilderness hobbies they entertain (i.e. they have fun). When I got home I was well-slept, well-fed, and not even sporting any new scars, injuries or emotional traumas. My first-aid kit was still stocked. I still liked my boyfriend.

I wondered if I was losing my mojo.

I looked back at my calendar and noted that I had planned a grand adventure those days, but all I got was a really good time. Maybe sometimes the universe knows more than we do about what our souls really need.

Ammi Midstokke can be contacted at

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