Landing in the mud

I went hiking in the Blue Mountains this past weekend. It was a gorgeously crisp and clear day, without being freezing cold. I used to go to the Mountains for holidays when I was a kid, so an Autumn Sunday was a lovely flashback to fun my brother and I used to have as kids. Armed with my water bottle, hiking boots and some delicious snacks, I headed out to walk the Leura Cascades to Gordon Falls track.

You wander down the carved out steps and around winding tracks that stretch out under the canopy of the lush green trees and shrubbery. After a few minutes where you feel like you have been cocooned within a forest doona, you pop out unexpectedly to an impromptu look out. Standing on the well-worn rocks that open out into the vast space that is the canyons of the Blue Mountains, I felt like I could finally take that deep calming breath we all crave. The air gave a slight sting to the back of my throat as I stretched my lungs to full capacity, taking in all that clean and fresh O₂.

It must have rained a bit the previous afternoon or evening, as the track was littered with water hazards. I’m a rather clumsy person and it took some navigating to make my way across the deeper and wider pools. In one particular section, I stopped to work out my path, risk assessing different strategies and looking for tracks from previous travelers. I successfully managed to cross halfway before losing my footing and stepping backwards to steady myself, only to land squarely in a squelchy puddle of mud. Even though my foot was caked in black sticky mud, I was lucky it wasn’t a deeper puddle of water.

When leading during incident management, we often stand on the precipice of a difficult section to navigate. We look for possible solutions, risk assessing options and weighing up the benefits verses the potential hazards for different scenarios. We search for information on how other Incident Controllers or Commanders have worked through similar situations. At the end of the day, we just have to make a choice. We have to press on.

What I learnt from my hike was that even though we may have passed a challenging moment, we can’t become complacent about it. We never know when we will need to take a backwards step to right ourselves, or reassess the objective of the incident. But stepping back isn’t always a catastrophe. It could be that we see the incident from a new perspective, and a potential new way forward comes to light. I may have stepped back into the mud, but it helped me to see a stone that I could use to move further forward that my original option had allowed. I just couldn’t see the stone when I first started crossing the water.

Next time you’re faced with working out a solution to managing your incident, don’t be afraid to take a step back every now and then. You never know what you’ll see that you never knew existed in the first place.

In the meantime, whilst the weather is so glorious, why not give the Leura Cascades to Gordon Falls track a go? Just watch out for those pesky puddles! You can find out more at:

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