humor, Outdoors, Travel

Big Adventure: Hiking The Gorge In Samaria National Park Is Not A Walk In The Park!

“Adventure is just bad planning.” – Roald Amundsen

Roald Amundsen, polar explorer, led the the first expedition proven to reach the North Pole in 1926. 

His definition of adventure rang true after I hiked Samaria National Park Gorge in Crete last September.

My bad planning, that turned a “walk in the park” to an adventure, stemmed from a faulty premise. 

Faulty Premise: Hiking the Samaria Gorge is like hiking around Crystal Lake. 

The Samaria Gorge is nestled in the White Mountains. Crystal Lake isn’t anywhere near a mountain. You would have thought I’d have uncovered THAT flaw in my reasoning immediately. I didn’t. I planned as if hiking a gorge in Greece and strolling around a lake in VERY flat Illinois were the same.  

From this faulty premise I arrived at faulty conclusions.

Faulty Conclusion One: I will complete the Samaria Gorge hike in 3 hours 45 minutes.

I calculated that 16 kilometers equal about 10 miles. The path around Crystal Lake that I regularly walk is 3.5 miles. I complete the Crystal Lake walk in 1 hour 15 minutes. The gorge walk is three times as long. Therefore I will complete the gorge walk in 3 hours 45 minutes. 

My time calculations didn’t include traveling to the trailhead beginning with a 5 am drive to Hania, parking the car and walking to the bus station, and then traveling by bus to Omalos to begin the hike. (I was exhausted before I even began the trek.) Upon completing the hike we reversed the process with the addition of boarding a ferry to take us to the waiting bus. The hike itself took 7 hours! 

Leaving our premises at 5 am and returning at 11 pm amounted to an 18 hour commitment to the gorge walk. 

Faulty Conclusion Two: I will be walking downhill. Walking downhill is easier than walking on flat ground.

About three steps into my gorge descent I realized that hiking downhill was NOT easier. If I had Googled “Is hiking downhill easy?” I would have learned that hiking downhill is more challenging than hiking on a flat surface or even hiking uphill.

So why did I think it would be easier? I based my assumption on the idiom “It’s downhill from here.” To me that means downhill is easier than uphill. Well it’s NOT.

Hiking downhill puts more stress on your knees- seven to eight times your body weight.

Boulders littered the trail. In the worst situations, I scrambled over them. In the best situations I balanced on them in an upright position. It was like walking on bowling balls. 

Faulty Conclusion Three: My knees are healthy. I don’t have problems with them when I walk around Crystal Lake. So I won’t have problems hiking the gorge.

See “Faulty Conclusion Two.” Read the part about hiking downhill puts more stress on your knees. About nine kilometers in my knees ached. Then they moaned. Then I heard them scream, “What are you doing to us? Get us out of here!” 

I couldn’t even calm them down with an Advil or Tylenol or a shot of vodka because I didn’t BRING any. Why would I? I NEVER had problems with my knees when I walk around Crystal Lake!

Faulty Conclusion Four: It will be safe in the park. 

Bears or mountain lions or buffalo were of no concern. A wild Cretan goat, was the only large mammal and sightings of the Kri-kri were rare. Since I focused on where I placed my foot each step, I wouldn’t have seen one unless it were passed out on the trail.

Exhausted, with achy knees worsened to downright painful, I traversed a rickety bridge. A uniformed Samaria Park employee at the other end motioned to me from under an overhang. 

“Don’t dawdle,” he instructed. “The boulders are falling.”

Before I could explain about my knees, a trunk sized boulder leapt from the high canyon wall and smashed against the gorge floor fifty feet from us.

Although I felt like Harrison Ford in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” nearly being killed by the rolling boulder, I couldn’t hike any faster than the slow pace that accommodated my painful knees. 

I wouldn’t stop, but I couldn’t pick up speed.

I resigned myself. If I left this world by way of a falling boulder, then so be it.

The crashing boulders spared me and I finished the trek.

I hadn’t planned on the time commitment, painful knees, and threatening boulders when hiking the gorge, but I also hadn’t planned on the feeling of accomplishment.

More than once since then when faced with difficulties I’ve said to myself . . .

if I hiked the Samaria Gorge trail, I can do this!

8 thoughts on “Big Adventure: Hiking The Gorge In Samaria National Park Is Not A Walk In The Park!”

  1. My knees felt just like yours today only From the strain of helping prepare and serve a Thanksgiving dinner for 225 Seniors. The really good part was that I got to eat Turkey and pecan pie!


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