• Sara Tucker

A Lesson in Wants Versus Needs

Anticipation is a funny thing. So often I anticipate something only to be disappointed when the event actually happens. Sometimes the anticipation is actually the more enjoyable part of the whole experience.

But yesterday I knew my anticipation was well placed. I would not be disappointed, no matter what. I had not even seen the two lakes that were shown on the map. Although I had anticipated being tempted to stay at them I was almost relieved. I really did not want to stop yet for the night.

The outlet to the lakes was dry. I was thirsty. I knew I would have to drop down about four miles to get to water. Once or twice on the way down I could hear it. I even saw it once, down in the blowdown-filled ravine. But it was too difficult to leave the trail and crawl through those fallen trees to get to it. I would have to wait until the trail crossed it, anticipating how marvelous that cool water would feel on my parched tongue. I had about one quarter cup of water left in my pack and was taking just tiny sips in order to make it last. How great it would feel to be able to drink my fill.

I asked myself how I would feel if when I finally reached the stream further down in the valley it was full of cow manure. My answer was that it would not matter. I was thirsty enough to appreciate the water, cow pies and all. I realized in that moment that my satisfaction depends on my level of need. Happily it turned out to be a lovely little stream free of most signs of cows. In fact, that water was so satisfying that I decided to call it a night rather than pushing on another few miles.

I’ve learned to be careful with anticipation in order to avoid disappointment. Now I want to remember that if I am disappointed, I probably did not really need the anticipated object. Being out in the harsher elements of nature has taught me that when I really need the warmth of an indoor fire, the satisfaction of a long drink, a place to be in out of the cold rain, or food of any kind, I am seldom disappointed.


Mary Anderson is hiking the 3,000-mile Continental Divide Trail and writing a book about it. When she wrote this post, she was on her way to Ennis, Montana. She left Ennis on Sunday, August 8, after a few days’ rest, and is now on her way to Big Sky, Montana.

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