40 Leadership Lessons from the Freedom Trail – #24

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On the 31st August 2013, Lesley, my wife and soulmate, retired after 35 years teaching in secondary schools. Two days later, as planned, we set off for a magical celebratory holiday, taking in New York, California and Oregon. Our trip became known as the ‘Freedom Trail’.

While on the Freedom Trail, I journaled every day and ended each entry with a leadership moment/lesson.

P1040679Leaders need to trust and be trusted

What a great way to wake up! Here was the view that greeted us on walking out of our cabin this morning!

Travelling back into California last night, we spent a long time in complete darkness trying to find our latest hotel. We knew it was set in beautiful surroundings, in a forest by a lake and overlooking Mount Shasta – sounds idyllic, huh? However, we didn’t reckon on trying to find it in the pitch black!

Finally, having driven up and down lots of lanes multiple times and ending back up on the freeway several times, with random choice words from me, as I was driving, we arrived.

The lady on reception was almost on the point of sending out a search party!We had telephoned some while earlier and sought directions. I guess those are skills we need to hone!

P1040665She described our accommodation as a wooden chalet in the woods, and it sounded fantastic.

We stayed in the fanciest cabin ever. There was a Jacuzzi bath in the bedroom – wow! The best of it was we did not appreciate the setting until the sun rose and we left the cabin. As the opening picture shows, the view was stunning!

P1040694Breakfast was sat looking up at the mountain. It was so pleasant just to sit and soak it all in and have a lazy start to the day.

However, it was soon time to pack up and move on. We were headed to Chester, but not before a quick drive up the mountain to about 8,000 feet, where the road just stopped! It was quite a sight, already snow-covered, and freezing, while we had a bit of a wander.

P1040702Les found some friendly natives. She would call them chipmunks, but the locals called them ‘chicarinas’.

They are very quick little blighters to catch on camera – and so she did brilliantly to catch one! It was so peaceful up on the mountain, except for a chance meeting with two ladies who looked equipped for the Arctic. They were amazed to see me wearing a short sleeved shirt! I told them I was from North East England where people are hardy!

P1040715About 80 miles down the road we stopped off at Burney Falls and had a walk round one of the forest trails. Again, it was very peaceful and obviously animal spotting day!

Another 50 miles or so later, after lots of winding roads through the forests, we had spotted this place on the map, so thought we’d stop and take a look
P1040733It was a place called ‘Subway Caves’, which was, in fact, a volcanic lava tube. According to the notice, it was a third of a mile tunnel hollowed out and left by the lava as it erupted and spewed out onto the landscape. We’d never seen anything like it.  There was lots of information about it on several boards – most of which we now can’t remember.


P1040735
As you can see from the photograph, I was keen to explore. But just beyond me, the tunnel became pitch black. We had hiked into the middle of nowhere, following a random sporadic trail marker to the entrance. Obviously, being so remote, there was no guide and, you guessed it, no lights.

Les was unsure about exploring, but fortunately, I had a flashlight in the car.

P1040747I eventually persuaded her that all would be well and to trust me in that. So off we ventured into this pitch black tunnel.

Les started to panic after about 10 minutes – hoping we had good batteries and hadn’t taken the wrong turn in the dark!

Interestingly, a third of a mile in the dark seems a long way! The floor was so uneven too, ridged and pitted by the movement of the lava, and spotted with cracks in the floor where you could hear running water. There were also large boulders everywhere, which is not great when your illumination is limited.

However, hanging onto me for grim life, we finally reached the end and revelled in having undertaken the trip and in seeing its formation. Les was also pleased she had trusted me to do the walk in the lava tube, though she admitted afterwards that it was not one of the best experiences she’d ever had and was not keen to repeat it. I complimented her on her courage and thanked her for the trust she’d placed in me.

P1040760Back at the car, Les managed to catch one the local birds on camera, a much more sedate pastime than walking through a lava tube by flashlight!

Leaving Subway Caves behind us, we headed on toward Chester, arriving there in the early evening.

It had been a brilliant day, with more new experiences to add to our collection. It had also been an icy day up in the mountain areas, so we were both glad to get some hot food and switch on the heating in the room rather than air conditioning!

Reflecting on the day, I noted that leaders need to trust and be trusted. We had walked a third of a mile through a pitch black lava tube and emerged to tell the tale. Despite her misgivings, Les had gamely soldiered on, and we were able to dispel a mistaken belief we shared, which was that lava tubes would be smooth. They are most definitely not! They are, in fact, rough and spiky inside!

As always, I welcome your comments and dialogue. I also wish you an entertaining and enlightening experience of this series of posts.

Thank you for reading.

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