I recently completed a day hike - less than fourteen miles - in which a five-and-a-half mile section crosses a stream about fourteen times.
I had hiked this loop trail before and anticipated the crossings. Water flow determines the difficulty of the crossings, from no problem to extreme difficulty. I believed the crossing made most difficult by high water was the first crossing; or the last, depending upon the direction hiked. I didn’t recall that much rain had fallen - - note to self, have “mountains make their own weather” tattooed on the back of my hand - - but it seemed prudent to make the most difficult crossing first. If the water was too high, I’d just hike another trail, rather than hike twelve miles the other way to find I couldn’t make the last crossing, then turn around and re-hike those same twelve miles back.
The water was a little high but didn’t seem too high. I used a downed tree limb to help me maneuver across the stream, over rocks and logs, making a dry crossing.
At one of the subsequent crossings I walked upstream and downstream but couldn’t find a dry crossing point. I could turn back or wade across. The farther you hike the greater the barrier confronting you must be to convince you to turn back.
I took off my shoes and socks, put my shoes back on, and waded across. On the other side, I took off my shoes, took out my insoles, poured out the water, then returned the insoles and put my shoes back on, leaving my dry socks in my pack.
My belief, that high water made the first crossing the most difficult, proved incorrect. The crossings became increasingly difficult. This routine - hiking to the next crossing, reconnoitering upstream and downstream, deciding whether to hop or wade across - added two-and-a-half hours to my hike.
I realized that even though higher water reduced the number of objects available to cross upon, some years earlier I would nonetheless have tried hopping across the objects available.
My ability to launch from the bank, or log or rock, my ability to land precisely on target, and the balance needed to regain my footing upon some wet, irregularly shaped, and potentially unstable surface midstream - have all diminished.
I have sustained injury, where years earlier I would have only experienced the nuisance of short term pain. I have endured long term physical damage and recovery where previously it would have been a minor injury which I would have gotten over effortlessly.
My increased propensity for injury, decreased healing time, and increased recovery time, have conspired with my diminished athleticism to reduce my willful risk taking, and add time to some hikes.
Many of my day hikes include crossing water. I added a pair of virtually unused Nike Water Moccasins to my pack.