Monday, September 7, 2009

A Parable on Retail Pinches

Many times, in many posts, I’ve noted the trick to spending smartly is avoiding the great Retail Pinch, the times we must purchase something quickly, usually spending more than we’d like. The retail world prefers we shop by Pinch; Summer Pinch, Back-to-School Pinch, and the Holiday Pinch, reported in all venues of national media. Many people unknowingly fall victim to this cycle and burn through a lot of money and worse, credit. This spent money could have been used for other needs.

Thinking like a pioneer and shopping ahead in thrift stores helps avoid the Retail Pinch. Why thrift stores? Because the thrift store, by nature, offers a greater diversity of product, often not limiting the shopper to a season, trend, or brand. Many of today’s thrift stores are chock full of the leftovers of retail therapy, wasteful spending and offer quality products, often new, for a less than 10% retail value as in the post, "What's the bait? Where's the Switch?"

Despite my distaste for Pinches, they happen. But, I recently learned that they can happen even when you’re prepared. I guess I knew this deep down, it just hadn’t come to light.

I learned this vis a vis a parable of sorts that happened this Sunday during Labor Day weekend. Though the unexpected Pinch was out of my control, my preparedness made a huge difference in the outcome.
My family was hiking Little Pie’s second Colorado 14ner, a mountain over 14,000’. Mt. Princeton is in the Collegiate Peak Range, near Buena Vista. (Petite Poe wanted to hike Mt. Harvard. There is a superstition about the Collegiates. But, Mt. Harvard is a long hike, much too demanding for Little Pie at eight-years-old.) The above photo is of us at the 14,197' summit.

We played by all rules of smart mountaineering. We had all the right gear, the majority of it vis a vis the thrift store which, on this trip, saved me an easy thousand to outfit a family of four.

Mountaineering at high altitudes is like a fashion show. The weather is in severe flux forcing a constant change of attire. But unlike fashion shows, mountaineering lacks the behind the scenes crew to snap the hiker out of one ensemble and on with another in a matter of seconds with a pat on the rear to get back on the trail. This constant changing can grow a bit tiring but is essential to a safe and successful hike.

Maybe there is a market for ensemble changing crews on hiking trails across Colorado. They could also coif hair and yell, “Make-up!” so that all hikers looked tidy and smart as they strut the trailway.

Well equipped and prepared we were on the trail at 6:15AM, ascended the summit by noon, took a few photos, and began our descent. Upon seeing Little Pie on her final ascent, the crowd atop the mountain cheered her on, being so little as to accomplish something so big. It brought tears to my eyes. I think it embarrassed Little Pie. The photo below is us on the descent with Mt. Antero, Little Pie’s first 14ner, in the distance. Mt. Antero was the perfect hike in every way.
After going down a good 1,000’ of very steep and tiring talus, we took a break before hitting a series of switch backs around 13,000’. It was then that we saw it, the peak completely shrouded and a wall of hail rushing through the basin towards us. We had just enough time to toss on our parkas and scoot. Totally exposed on miles of talus, we were pounded by bead-size hail for over an hour following a trail over a field boulders with nothing but randomly placed cairns to keep us on target. It thundered, which meant lightning. Our eyes constantly on the trail, hidden by the collecting hail, in attempt to move as fast as possible.
I was so proud of my family, especially my daughters. We worked together in extreme circumstances without complaint, all of focused on one goal, getting everyone safe, below tree line.

Had I not supplied my family with the essential gear, we would have easily fallen into hypothermia, exposed on a mountain ridge in a hailstorm with lightning – all seriously life threatening. My husband and I spent some time stewing about what happened on Mt. Princeton. We beat ourselves up for a while. Eventually, we agreed that it was a freak storm both for the time of day and time of year. We were smart and prepared and that saved us. Our daughters learned a few serious lessons and gained a lot of confidence and are proud of their accomplishment. There were many other people on that mountain this Sunday and I am glad to note, there were no reported casualties. Being struck by lightning in the high country of Colorado is not an uncommon occurrence, but it mostly happens in the late afternoon of a hot summer's day.

The majority of the hike had fair weather with an amazing sunrise and a beautiful moon set over the peak on our way up. Upon seeing this little cloud over the peak, Piper was excited about the possibility of her being on top of this mountain and "eating a cloud".
So shop like a pioneer and think about needs in advance. Buy them in the thrift stores when they are revealed to you, whether it be your child’s winter coat for next year for $8.99 ($79.99 retail) or a new men's suit for $8.99 (retailing hundreds). This will help avoid Pinches. But, when they happen, say the furnace tanks out in January, thanks to savvy shopping, there will money on hand to cover this unexpected event and it will not become a heavy addition to a pre-existing mountain of debt or involve bushwhacking a trail to some new form of credit.

1 comment:

Elizabeth B said...

Oh my goodness, what an experience. Congratulations to Little Pie on her achievement--she's really done something she can be proud of. I'm glad to hear that your family got down off the mountain safely.