If you have ever seen the old Nic Cage remake of Gone In 60 Seconds, you know that the 1967 Mustang GT500 was his elusive nemesis that he named Eleanor. Every time he had tried to get his hands on one it ended in disaster…..bittersweet but glorious disaster.
Have you ever had a hike that was your Eleanor? A hike that every time you tried to sneak it in, fate reared its ugly head and decided for you that it was not happening.
Mine was Eagle Rock Loop in Arkansas. I had always loved that part of the country around the Ouachitas but have never actually done the almost 30 mile loop. I briefly lived in Little Rock in 2010 when a section of the loop flooded and tragically killed several people so I have a healthy respect for the trail but was also intrigued by the experience of doing it.
Over the course of 5 years I repeatedly made plans in a very packed schedule to finally conquer ERL. Each time, life seemed determined that I would never get to experience it. I could schedule other hikes and rarely ever had issues getting them notched off but this one was always a mystery. At least 4 times I cancelled because there had been enough recent rains to make the river crossings problematic. One time the dreaded work schedule got into the way and yet another time my wife and child were sick so I instead served as chief nurse of our household. One outing got cancelled when my child got into trouble at school but after a visit from the “idea fairy” I decided his punishment was hiking the trail with me the following June when he was out of school in a few weeks. This was a huge mistake. We did actually make it to the trail and managed to knock out about half of it before he tapped out. He was miserable in the heat so we bailed out and headed back home to Dallas. Yet again, my plans were thwarted.
My efforts to complete this trail were beyond frustrating and only salted my wounds. Even my friends started to call it Eleanor. In January of 22 and on very short notice something magical happened. Plans got cancelled and while both the work gods and the weather gods were looking elsewhere, I snuck off alone to ERL on a whim. The forecast was dry but chilly into the 20s, which I love. I told almost no one other than my wife and son where i was going. This weekend Eleanor was going down or I was.
I was so eager to shake the monkey from my back that I flew through the trail over the course of 2 days and two nights. I slowed down to take pictures but even those were sparse. This trip was no longer about enjoying the scenery or even taking in the experience, it was 100% about exorcising the demon named Eleanor and it was glorious. When I realized I had completed it far faster than I had planned, I did regret hustling through it but at the same time now I know which areas are worth drinking in and which areas you just hike on through.
Have you ever had an Eleanor? Did you ever wrestle it into submission? Was it what you imagined it would be or like me, did the struggle to win change the motivation for you? I would love to hear your story.