Step One: Start Writing

Over the past few weeks I’ve been thinking more and more about writing a book and what I would want to accomplish with it, as well as how I would want to organize it.  I don’t plan on publishing a book any time soon, but I think there’s no time like the present to start one.  So, I’ve done it.  I sat down and typed out a purpose and direction I want my book to have, I have a rough timeline and a list of  different happenings, adventures, and stories that I want to include.  I plan on holding nothing back, elaborating on my family life, my unorthodox childhood, my relationships, and most of all the adventures life has taken me on and the ones I will continue to embark on.  I hope that I can show at least one person sitting at home wishing they had a more adventurous life that I’m your average person and that everyone can create their own story. So here it is, the very first two teaser paragraphs I will not post anything else directly from the book for probably years.  Hopefully someone reading this will buy a copy!

 

In October of 2005, I flew to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania for a short visit with my dad and step mom. My dad was stationed at Carlisle Barracks for a year to graduate War College, an endeavor that would ultimately lead to his rank of Colonel in the United States Army; and solidify his nickname throughout the rest of this book.  I had spent my whole life to date a hiker, a hunter, a fisherman, a kayaker, a mountain biker, a BMX biker, a soccer player, an avid skier; but never had anything gripped me enough to have my undivided attention. My dad, a lifelong outdoor enthusiast, enticed me into a short hike to a craggy overlook known as Pole Steeple Point. Pole Steeple is a small cliff band overlooking Laurel Lake nestled in the deep valley below.

I was a curious teenager, having always been interested in climbing trees, and exploring in general; the scramble style climbing struck a chord in me immediately. My parents instinctively chose the easiest path of ascent via a trail around the right side, and I, almost as instinctively, began climbing up a portion of the face. Looking down at my parents I began to feel afraid that I had gone so high, but I had reached the point in the face where it seemed easier to go up rather than down. I topped out, 60 feet above the deck on my first ever, true rock climb. A layman, I had no idea I had just soloed a 5th class climb.  My direction in life took a drastic turn that day.  During the ensuing nine years climbing will grow to consume every thought in my head, and swiftly become the reason I do, well, anything. 

Categories: Climbing, Publishings | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Perceiving Her Perception: Achieving Acceptance

Through a recent self-realization, I’ve concluded that I suffer from extreme judgmentalism. (<– Not a word).  I think if it was an actual disorder psychologists would coin it “Chronic Judgment Disorder” or (CJD). As with all problems of the self, only thy self can fix the problem.  I’ve decided to spearhead an internal movement to correct what I’m now considering to be a major social flaw.

The problem is that I judge too many books by their cover.  “Books,” of course, being metaphorical humans in this case.  I put labels on people by their appearance, their lifestyle choices, their tattoos, their baggy pants, their flat brimmed hats, or more commonly, the things they say.  I spent this past week in Red Rock Canyon, Nevada with a wild, hodgepodge group of climbers running the gamut of climbing dedication or lack thereof. For those of you climbing layman, Red Rock Canyon, or just Red Rocks, is a world famous climbing destination just outside of Las Vegas.  Most of the rocks are brown, contrary to its namesake, and the climbing is amazing.  It’s one of the few places in the country where you can climb trad/sport big walls one day, trad/sport single pitch the next, and boulder on the last day.  For those climbers on a mission, Las Vegas is merely an afterthought, a place to visit quickly on a rest day.

The red rock group that drove down in a van together. Three more flew in to meet us

The red rock group that drove down in a van together. Three more flew in to meet us. From left to right, Tony, Myself, Jake, Nagy, Jerra, Logan, Mikaila

However, a few of us were die hards; fully committed to climbing as a lifestyle choice.  Enjoying every aspect of climbing and pursuing outdoor climbing more regularly than any other venue.  Some of us were gym climbers, more excited by the movement and challenge of climbing and less enthralled with the full dedication of hard outdoor climbing, approaches, and time spent on the stone.  Some of us treated climbing as a mere pass time; using it to fill the void of boredom but not interested in a full dedication.  And lastly, some were merely just along for the ride, for the joys of vacation; because it’s not just Red Rocks, it’s Vegas! Right?

I pride myself on sitting comfortably in the first category.  Climbing has swiftly become the only real reason I do…well, anything.  I dream about big days where I come home tired, and I’m excited about every aspect of each climb.  I love the grind of the approach, the cold, the heat, the hurt, the sore and the scare.  Not everyone does though and I quickly became annoyed with those of my friends who weren’t as dedicated to climbing as I was.  I was once again being unnecessarily judgmental towards people who were just that, people.

I had to remind myself that they were great, kind, and happy people with different interests.  Just because their level of dedication was different than my own didn’t change that I cared about them for who they were, not for how much they climbed.

One specific occasion stands out to me more than any other during the week.  After that long-winded introduction, I have now finally reached the reason for this rant that I am dubbing “Perceiving her Perception.”

Mikaila is the girlfriend of one of my very best friends, Logan, and is now also one of my friends whether she likes it or not.  It’s really hard to dislike Mikaila.  She exudes a glow of happiness with an undertone of giddiness with an undertone of bubbliness with an undertone of a Rugrats character (I’m going with Lil).  Her soft eyes find their way into a near squint when she giggles as her high cheekbones are forced up by her big warm smile. I imagine Mikaila walking into a forest and blue birds come land on her shoulder and sing songs.  Even when she tries to say something mean about someone it sounds like she’s complimenting them, mean just isn’t Mikaila’s thing. She has the voice of an excited Disney princess, making everything she says sound like it’s the best thing that has ever happened to her, even when she’s complaining about every aspect of rock climbing.  There, in lies the source of the judgments I was so quick to pass.

I took Mikaila and Logan into Juniper Canyon last week to climb an ultra-classic 5.9+ called “Armatron,” which I have lead previously. This six pitch mixed route has some of the coolest features I’ve ever seen on rock.  The third pitch will always remain one of the best pitches I’ve ever lead in my life and it has nothing to do with the difficulty but rather the rock itself.  The rock is water worn into crazy grooves on black stone.  The grooves form deep fissures behind the outer layer of rock that take nut placements like nowhere else I’ve used a rack of nuts.  It goes at only 5.6 but will be burned into my head for the rest of my life.

The day starts at 445am in our dark, Wyndham Resorts timeshare condo a block off the Vegas strip.  Some people are just stumbling away from their slots, White Russian in hand, trying to remember how to get home.  Mikaila, however, is just waking up wondering what in the world she’s doing going rock climbing before the sun.  The van takes off heading southwest towards the iconic Red Rock canyon still shrouded by nighttime. A day’s worth of adventure lays hidden behind a veil of emptiness, awaiting seizure.

As the sunlight kisses the tops of Mt. Wilson high above us, our shoes press hard into the desert sand under the first steps of our 2.5-hour approach.  Chola and yucca cacti threaten our soft skin as we brush past on a mission into Juniper Canyon.  The weather is near perfect for the hike, just chilly enough to keep us from sweating like Obama in Texas, but not so cold that we have to wear gloves and baselayers.  Mikaila breaks the silence of the morning stillness with a single sentence that immediately makes me question her dedication to the day.

“I hate hiking!” She exclaimed in a way where I wasn’t sure if she was happy that she hated hiking or that she was upset that she was hiking.

Mikaila hiking in the desert sun with Mt. Wilson towering behind her. Photo credit: Jake Murray

Mikaila hiking in the desert sun with Mt. Wilson towering behind her. Photo credit: Jake Murray

Every fiber of my being began to twist inside.  My heart wilted a little and my mind immediately judged her character for the proclamation.  I laughed and told her we weren’t even to the hard part yet and we pressed forward.

The approach is deceiving because the first mile is a flat hike through the shallow desert vegetation at the base of the canyons and peaks.  However, once you reach the actual mouth of the canyon the hike turns to steep scrambling over smooth, water-worn sandstone boulders and calf burning presses up loose dirt, and rock capitalized by a grueling 4th class trudge up a giant slab of stone to the base of our route.

I stopped just at the start of the uphill battle to snap a few photos and prepare Mikaila for what was to come.  She sighed a long “Ugh, that looks terrible,” followed by, “this is why I like gym climbing.”

I about melted into a puddle of shame to be absorbed by the desert forever.  Looking up at the morning glow slithering down the beautiful desert sandstone walls above us, I couldn’t imagine someone choosing a gym over this beautiful battle of light and dark that makes its way down those craggy peaks every morning.  I once again laughed uneasily at the comment and we leaned forward charging upward.

Oak Creek canyon on the left between the two major peaks (Mt. Wilson left, Rainbow mountain right) Juniper canyon is the small canyon to the right of rainbow mountain with the large black varnished wall at the back of it.

Oak Creek canyon on the left between the two major peaks (Mt. Wilson left, Rainbow mountain right) Juniper canyon is the small canyon to the right of rainbow mountain with the large black varnished wall at the back of it. Photo Credit: Jake Murray

The rest of the approach was filled with groans of how much longers?, hurt joints, grunts, and comments like “why is this trail so loose?” and “I hate this.” Another popular observation was that everything looked like “snake territory.”  By the time we reached the base of Armatron, high above the flatlands we had started in, Mikaila had just about caused me to lose all faith in those who aren’t outdoorsy.

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A rare desert bighorn that silhouetted itself agains the Mojave Desert high above the valley floor. This was the final push of the hike, you can see the steep petrified sand dune slabs we were “trudging” up

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The Three of us right before we moved into Juniper Canyon, Rainbow Mountain behind us.

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Sitting at the base of Armatron, the route towering behind us, you can see the black varnish of pitch three way up at the very top of the visible portion of the route. We had to wait for the older party ahead of us to close out pitch one before we could move forward, putting us behind even farther still.

All was well as we moved slowly (as expected with three) through the first two pitches.  The sun began to slide around the west side of our face and ever so slowly our warm black rock became a cold wind tunnel of discomfort.  While waiting for Logan to lead the money pitch I got Mikaila back for her comments on the approach with some stagnant butt trumpets which caused her to inform me that I fart more than anyone she’s ever met.  I’ll proudly accept that title.  Mikaila began to follow Logan through the incredible third pitch with style.  Twenty feet from my anchor she paused and appeared to be scared as she scrambled for a foothold until she uneasily yelled for Logan to “Take!” leaning back white knuckling the top rope with both hands until her weight rested comfortably in her harness.  “I can’t find a foothold!” She yelled up to Logan.  I tried my best to encourage her from below but realized there was no way Mikaila was going to enjoy this pitch as she struggled a few more times with the thin footholds on the route before finally gaining the next set of anchors.  By the time I reached the anchors a few minutes later, we were all shivering 450 feet up with three more pitches to go and the rest of the route would be in the shade.  I made the call to rappel once realizing that it was only going to get worse for everyone from there.

Mikaila climbing towards the small dot at the top that is Logan. You can see the dark varnished "Alligator Skin" plates that make this pitch so phenomenal.

Mikaila climbing towards Logan. You can see the dark varnished “Alligator Skin” plates that make this pitch so phenomenal.

On the hike down my mind reeled with the memories of Mikaila’s differing opinions on the outing, my inner thoughts only interrupted by a few “I hate going down” comments.  By the time I reached the van I was singing songs and skipping with delight because I had rationalized my opinions of Mikaila.  This next paragraph is for Mikaila herself.

Mikaila, let me start by saying you’re such a sweetheart and also more of a trooper than I first acknowledged.  Climbing has become such a staple in my life that I always expect it to go a certain way and I have a preconceived notion for how each outing is going to go.  I’ve done it so much that it’s become second nature to me.  I expect the approach, I know it’s going to be hard and I train to make it easier.  I know the gear and I move quickly with it on my back.  I have developed a creative mindset on outdoor climbing, seeing the holds and understanding how to use them and where to position myself on them.  I understand what you mean when you say “I just wish these holds had tape on them” because I remember my transfer from gym climbing to outdoor climbing years back.  I did my best to be accepting of your handicaps during our trip up Armatron and I hope I wasn’t a negative person but I realize now that climbing may define who I am, but it doesn’t define others.  What defines you, Mikaila, is your docile nature and your kindhearted personality, not your dedication to climbing.  I have to start looking at climbers for who they are as people and not for who they are as climbers and I’m sorry I passed negative judgements in your direction and I want you to know that you’re awesome!  Thanks for going up Armatron with me and allowing me to reconcile my negative thoughts towards climbing dedication.  I hope you keep crushing and enjoying whatever happiness that climbing gives to you.

For those of you other folks, not just in climbing but life in general, who find yourself being more dedicated to something than others.  Let’s stop this elitist asshole outlook on newbs, or weekend warriors or anything of the sort. This is my first step in the process moving forward, I hope you’re taking those steps with me…without complaint.

Lastly, for all those folks on the trip last week, I had a grand time and if at any point I seemed negative please accept this as my apology for you were all great people and I appreciated your diverse personalities and outlooks on life, whether I showed that or not.

Once you’re done reading this I want you to listen to this song, I had it on repeat for the majority of the time I was writing this. They stream their music, and give free downloads to all songs on ODESZA.com.

Then watch this: Credit Mountain Hardwear

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/88100934″>Days You Remember</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/mountainhardwear”>Mountain Hardwear</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Categories: Climbing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

How do you do it?: Suffer Some, Enjoy it All

(Click on any photo to see it larger)

The great, mysterious days of exploration are dwindling away under the brawn of the daring and the creative.  The moon has been conquered, Everest, K2, Mt. Meru, someone has walked the length of every continent, and caves have been pushed deeper than ever imagined.  Submarines dive to the deepest depths of the ocean and there is a rover on Mars.  The days of government funded expeditions are over as American’s have stood on every major peak of the world multiple times.  The modern day adventurer has to happen upon great wealth, be born into it, or be so freakishly athletic, people pay them to wear their brand and travel.

I look up to the famous explorers of yesteryear.  Columbus, Royal Robbins, Jim Whittaker, Neil Armstrong, Messner and Amelia Earheart; but in modern times, few people like that exist.  Today, I look up to the person who has no money, but is willing to sacrifice everything to chase their passion, to follow in the footsteps of our explorative ancestors in the only real modern fashion…I’m talking about ski bums, dirtbags, surfer dudes, trekkies, mountaineers and the like. The real heroes of today; breaking away from the societal norms of offices and full time jobs, pensions, retirements, 9-5ers, and commutes.

As I strive to find my place among that community and slip into a life of adventure on the cheap, I constantly get asked, “How do you do it?”

I’m here to tell you that my life isn’t all smiles and butterflies. I’ll tell you how my life has lead me in the direction that it has taken today and you can take what you want from it. When I was 16, I was obsessed with soccer but I hated the way my friends all treated each other in the constant gorilla testosterone style of competition.  I bought a kayak and spent my weekends on the river with the turtles, snakes and my fishing rod instead of sitting around video game consoles talking about next week’s game.

I started rock climbing at a small gym and would go to soccer practice from 4-6pm then eat a quick dinner, drive to the gym and climb from 7-9 followed by an hour long body weight exercise session.  Sleep, repeat.  Before long I realized my passion for climbing and the peace I found by popping in my headphones and forgetting all the stresses of the day far surpassed the negativity of hypercompetitive field sports.  I found comfort in the few people I met who knew what a crimp was and understood my drive to push myself on the artificial stone.

In between the hustle, I worked long, hard hours for a grumpy old man doing tree removal all over the deep south.  I paid for my own gas, my own car repairs (they were never-ending on my ’93 VW Jetta), I paid for my own nights out, my dinners out and my loving mom occasionally gave me $20 she didn’t have. I saved every penny I could for imminent adventures I had planned for years.

I graduated May 31, 2008 and packed my car and left for my first cross country road trip on June 5, 2008.  I couldn’t wait to escape the norm, to break away from the binds of small town drama and those who so materialistically fought for popularity and pushed for the American Dream.  I drove to Virginia camping along the way, putting my kayak in any mediocre body of water that had a campground next to it.  I then drove to the Black Hills of South Dakota following the same mantra.

As high school came to a close I started applying for jobs all over the country knowing that no matter where I got one, I could always pitch a tent somewhere and get by.  I landed a job in Spearfish, SD spraying noxious weeds from atop a four wheeler.  I spent my summer going full throttle around the Black Hills rock formations staring up in awe at the endless possibilities that lay ahead of me in my climbing career, a metaphorical window into my future.

(Keep Reading after photos)

During that summer, I worked endless hours in the heat.  Worked with a bunch of lowlifes and even had a gun put to my head by a drunk man  on my crew.  I was a week out of high school, less than two months 18 and was already head first into what everyone had called the “real world” in high school.

I started a new job at the SDSU Climbing Gym and my love grew stronger.  I became obsessed, spending more time at the wall than I did working on school.  I continued to live a similar lifestyle to high school.  Monday through Friday I went to classes and spent my evenings climbing or setting routes or working out.  On Friday when everyone else in the dorms was tipping back their first beer I was driving West with a carload of archery equipment.  I would spend every morning and evening of the weekend in a treestand, sandwiched in between, I pushed my farm for pheasants, alone.

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This would continue through December when Christmas break would start.  After Christmas break I always returned stoked for the upcoming Spring Break climbing trip and began training incessantly.  Pushing myself as hard as I could I fell in and out of injury. After four years of working relentlessly at the climbing gym I graduated with zero desire to chase my degree in Wildlife Biology. I landed the first climbing gig I applied for at the Front Climbing Club in Salt Lake City.  After giving $300 to the state of South Dakota as a fine for the criminal trespassing I acquired graduation week (who knew you weren’t supposed to rappel out of your school’s bell tower in your underwear?) I had little money for my cross country drive.

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A couple of days after my arrest for rappelling out of the top of SDSU’s bell tower known as the “campanile”

I arrived in Utah and couldn’t afford a deposit on a room, let alone the first month’s rent in conjunction.  I found myself in a tent in my brothers backyard under an apple tree.  In the backyard I didn’t have to feel bad not paying rent and could stay out of the way of the five roommates in the house.  After almost two months, a coworker who was considering moving to San Francisco left for a month and graciously allowed me to stay in her house under the stipulation that I take care of her dog. I set up shop on the floor of an empty room with my stuff scattered around me.  Once again another month of free rent and I finally could get my own room in a house.  I moved into an actual house the last week of August and stayed until the last week of January.

Summer and Fall in Utah are some of the most amazing times for diversity of endeavors.  I cliff jumped, Alpine climbed, sport climbed, multi-pitch trad climbed, bouldered, canyoneered, road biked windy mountain roads, mountain biked slick rock trails, tubed under the interstate, bagged summits and drank a lot of beer.  As winter closed in on the valley, pollution filled our little terrarium between the mountains. I picked up a second full time job at Backcountry.com and worked 16 hour days, 80+ hour weeks and barely saw my friends, never climbed anymore and pushed through three and a half months of that before taking what I had saved and put it in my gas tank.

Check out my other website with my brother (unattended for a while now) http://www.makingonceenough.com to see the videos of our Utah times together.  Don’t worry 2015 will be an action packed year for that website.

For the first time in my life I had a destination but no agenda.  I knew I wanted to find myself in Alabama with my grandpa for a series of surgeries but I had two months to make it there, tons of climbing gear and an equal amount of time.  I spent nights at crags snuggled in the bed of the truck with my then five month old puppy.  I partied with friends, and saw a lot of family as well.  After a month with my grandpa I ventured back out to continue climbing and before long found myself on a friend’s couch in Rapid City, SD, trying to start a climbing gym.

I was so close to starting what society considers a real life.  With an Angel Investment and an approved down payment on a $200k+ loan, and an entire business plan to start my dream business, I got a pesky e-mail that piqued too much interest to pass up.  Two months later I was climbing a cell phone tower East of Austin, TX and since then a series of weird events has lead me to owning my own Rope Access/Wireless Solutions contract company.  I wasn’t ready to settle down; too many endeavors laid unachieved all of which I had always dreamed would come in my youth.

Now that I run my own contract company I can accept or refuse work as I please which allows me to stay unmarried to the game and keeps me on the road regularly.  Big things are in my near future and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So for all of you who have assumed I have money to live this way.  Or who have assumed I’m some sort of trust fund kid: I’ve been broke, really broke, I’ve had money, I’ve had a lot of fun, sometimes more fun that I’ve had money.  I’ve just allowed myself to slip away.  To break the chains that keep so many folks anchored to their ideals of life so intricately bored into their brains via society.  I’ve allowed the criticisms to roll off my back and to keep making myself happy.  I’ve allowed myself to venture into the unknown so repetitively that the unknown has no effect on me.  I’ve allowed myself to live life the way I want to. Period. Consequently, I know great people, with which I have amazing memories.  For me, I’ve just tried to make it as enjoyable as I can.  Regardless of whether I have $10,000 or $100, my motto: There’s always money for beer.

Below are just a few more photos I consider major times in my life that have kept me pushing towards what I will say is inevitably a life of happiness and contentment.

The group after some night bouldering

A solid group of night climbing spring breakers in Alabama

Second to white noise on my list of favorites, Mulletino

Still a top 3 on my all time boulder problems list. Mulletino HP40

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A burning man face

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A hike in Arkansas

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Another solid spring break crew after I had graduated from college, climbing at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch

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Not sure why the photo is warped, this is looking down on me as I solo the North face of Longs Peak

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The descent on Longs with Anne Schaffer

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One of the many nights there was always money for beer

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Somewhere on the north face of longs

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First try on the line

First try on the line

Ben and I gearing up for a climb near Moab, UT

Ben and I gearing up for a climb near Moab, UT

Climbing at the Kluttergarden near Minturn, CO

Climbing at the Kluttergarden near Minturn, CO

My brother bugling down into a valley we call "Last Chance"

My brother bugling down into a valley we call “Last Chance”

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Learning the Hard Way

As many of you may know, I had my first real encounter with the the shitty side of humanity in Dallas this past summer.  My roommates and I lived and worked together.  We had just spent three weeks working on towers in Northwest Texas and were on the five hour drive back to our Dallas home.  Ironically, we had multiple conversations about how we wanted to do our renter’s insurance that week.  We had spent so few days in the house and so many on the road that we hadn’t sat down to take care of the adult responsibilities of renting a home.

Taylor and JP, my roommates, arrived at the house before me while I was dropping off another employee on our crew.  I was a few minutes from home when JP called me.

“Hey, where are you?” he said asked me in a low voice.

I knew immediately something was wrong and I punched the gas, racing past the sketchy apartments near our house and running through the front door.  My roommates stood in the living room, quiet, staring at the floor.  They looked up at me but neither said a word and I knew immediately my guns were gone.  I raced to my bedroom to find my gun cases empty but closed and pushed carefully back under my bed.  Their former contents will merely hold memories but never make another.  My mind reeled as I ran from corner to corner of the house checking for my belongings.  They got everything of meaning to me except my climbing/camping gear.  Only a fellow hunter or gun owner will understand the empty feeling in the pit of my stomach.  I try really hard to not be materialistic in life, but those guns meant more to me than most could imagine.

Before I left the house to go on project I had made my bed and carefully slid my nearly new MacBook Pro under the sheets so people couldn’t look through the window and see it.  My now disheveled bed revealed the thieve’s thorough job of ripping a major chunk of my life away.  Hours of video from the countless adventures I’ve been on were gone forever, along with the photos I’ve accumulated from years of traveling and excursions.  My 10 years and counting music collection, gone.  My college career and all my transcripts, medical documents, job applications, cover letters, old college articles and writings were gone.  The brand new external hard drive I bought with the paycheck I had just received was useless now.  The innocent world I thought I lived in had a gaping hole in it.  I learned so many life lessons in a few moments of despondence as I came to terms with my materialistic loss.

To be honest, I cried.  Sitting alone in the corner of my messy bedroom, my roommates politely let me sulk.  I tried to consider them “just things” but the sentimental value of those guns outweighed my attempts to rationalize my sadness.  The Savage Arms .30-.30 bolt action was a gun my grandpa had given me.  My dad bought him the gun for his birthday before I was even born, along with the custom leather sling, laden with intricate leather work of deer and outdoor scenes etched in color throughout its length.  My grandpa in turn gave it to me in high school.  I had plans of doing the same for my own future children.  The .20 gauge youth edition Mossberg shotgun was the first gun I ever hunted with.  My dad bought it for me for Christmas when I was 11.  Just five months away from being of legal age to hunt with him. I still remember the first duck I shot from the banks of the James River in Virginia, and the first pheasant I dropped in South Dakota with it.

I’m over it all now, but it was a rough time! I couldn’t hunt at all this past year because they also took my bow.  I was supposed to do a solo 12 day archery elk hunt in Colorado last year but I had to put that on hold because it’s hard to shoot an elk with an imaginary arrow.

Here’s what I learned, and what I strongly recommend to protect yourself in the future:

Check all the locks in your house, including the ones in your roommate’s bedrooms.  We had a single window unlocked in the house, and they came in and left out of that window.  I in no way point fingers at anyone, but I do recommend that if you’re going to be leaving your house like we did that you do a thorough check of all the locks in the house to ensure for yourself that your house is as safe as it possibly can be.

Leave a light on, and a radio. We turned everything off in the house to save energy, but had we left a light on, and a radio the thieves might have driven right past our house, or not come in once they heard the radio.

Renter’s insurance! Biggest mistake I made.  Moving into that house was such a whirlwind for us but that’s no excuse.  We should’ve taken a break from work, made a phone call, and insured ourselves.  It’s only too late when all your stuff is gone, so get on it!

Gun owners, save your serial numbers! If you own guns, have every make, model, and serial number for each weapon in a separate location from your guns, like your parents house, so that you can reference that when talking to police.  Because if your gun gets stolen and used in a crime later on and you haven’t reported that serial number stolen, then you could be facing charges for something you didn’t do.

Backup your computer! It was something so simple that I had been putting off for a bit.  It’s not a daunting task, and you should keep your hard drive somewhere away from your computer, safe.

Get to know your neighbors.  After this we went around to every neighbor and filled them in on what happened, and what our job was like so they were aware how often we were out of the house.  After that, our neighbors approached us kindly on a regular basis and kept a watchful eye on our house when we were gone.

Lastly, don’t get comfortable.  Develop a routine of checking your windows and locks as you leave, you may not live in Dallas, TX but anyone can break into your house and it only takes them checking a single unlocked window to be in your house and out with your stuff.

I’ve spent my whole life learning things the hard way, I guess I didn’t break that tradition in Dallas either. Below are a few, more recent, memories of the many adventures I shared with my guns and great family and friends.

Nathan continuing the family tradition of shooting the windmill.

In my family, the tradition of hunting is taught at an early age

All of us hunters

A Family Tradition

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After a day of pheasant hunting on the family farm

After a day of pheasant hunting on the family farm

My dad and I hiking to where the rim is.

My dad and I on an archery elk hunt

Archery kill 2011

Archery kill 2011

Categories: Hunting | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

5 Steps to Living out of your car and Traveling

Since January 27, 2013, I have essentially been continuously living out of a bag and using the truck as home base.  There was a brief period of almost regularity when I was working in Texas.  Even then, as the renter of a home I spent 10 days of actual staying in the house.  Otherwise I was out on the road traveling from town to town working on cell phone towers in, you guessed it, the truck.  Followed by that, I spent 40 days living in my ex-girlfriends house in Maryland.  That was the closest I felt to being a real citizen of society, she was a great person for allowing me that serenity and I will always be grateful.

I get asked a lot how I live my life in the truck.  I’m writing here now to diminish my accomplishment of being 5 days away from a year of living out of a bag and in a truck.  360 days in and I have no intention of renting or owning a house for a long long time.  These 5 steps to my life in the truck are listed from 5-1, one being the most important step of all.

Step 5: Organization

I’m pretty bad at this step.  For all of those who have seen the inside of my truck it looks like chaos, but it’s definitely an organized chaos.  Having everything in a known place makes shifting from endeavor to endeavor easier.  My work stuff is one spot, my clothes are always in one spot, my climbing gear is always in the same spot, my winter gear is always in the same place and I have a method for converting the back of the truck to a bed.  I even have a flashlight taser for that one time someone tries something fishy! Knowing where everything is, is very important.  It also gives your vehicle a little more feeling of home because like a kitchen, a living room, a bedroom everything is where it belongs.

Step 4: Entertainment

Obviously my number one form of entertainment is some form of outdoor activity.  However, you have to keep yourself entertained during all the hours behind the wheel and the countless hours you spend alone.  Mine; music.  I put so many miles on the road that I have to find a way to keep that exciting and for me jamming to some good tunes is the way to keep the tires rolling. I installed a stereo in my truck that allows me to plug my iphone directly into the stereo and control Pandora. It’s safe to say that if I’m in the truck, Pandora is playing a conglomeration of amazing artists.

Step 3: Maintenance

Treating my truck like my house is a mentality I have been forced to adopt.  A regular vehicle doesn’t need maintenance so regularly, but because I’m constantly on the move I have to adopt a different idea of what my truck really is.  A house has regular maintenance needs such as yard work, leaky pipes, leaky roofs, light bulbs, cleaning, air filter changes, etc etc.  I have to accept that those normal things happen with the truck, such as oil changes, alignments, tires, car washes, etc etc.  Maintaining a healthy vehicle is maintaining a healthy house when both are synonymous.

Step 2: Have a good travel companion

Sadey! She has been the perfect companion.  Her maintenance is low but she gives me just the perfect amount of company that I never really feel alone.  Sadey and I spend so much time together that I now feel weird when she isn’t around.  As sappy as it sounds, she really is the best thing about traveling, I love her a ton :-)

Step 1: Having Amazing Friends and Family

This is legitimately the only reason I keep traveling.  I have been lucky enough my entire life to live all over the country making friends.  In conjunction with how open armed my family is to me, I travel in luxury.  The truth is, I rarely spend a night in the bed of the truck.  I seem to always have a couch, a bed, a floor, or a camper to sleep in.  I’ve stayed in condos in Jackson Hole, in cabins in the Black Hills under a pool table, on the couches of apartments in Vail, in a foldout bed in a truck camper, on the floor of homes in Vegas, on couches all over the country, in guest bedrooms with dinners made every night, and guest bedrooms with keggerators 10 feet from my door.  I hands down know the most amazing people and have the greatest family in all reaches of the United States.  Thanks guys for keeping my traveling, nomadic lifestyle rolling (pun intended).

 

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Over-exhaustion of “Hidden Gem”: Finding World Class in the Forests of the East

Hidden Gem.  For you climbers out there, you’ve heard of them.  The crags that seem to exude all that is quality, yet remain shrouded to the masses. Some of you may be baffled that they aren’t more popular, and some of you are just happy they aren’t.  I’ve always considered Spearfish Canyon in the Black Hills, SD to be a hidden gem.  However, I have redefined my outlook on the over-used, over-exhausted proclamation of crags as “hidden gems” in my recent wanderings of the heavily forested northeast.

I once submitted an article to Rock and Ice magazine in an effort to make it into their “Best 5.10 I’ve Ever Climbed” section.  I wrote about The Needles Eye, Fenton Variation 5.10c.  A famous line in the Needles, standing tall and proud above the Needles parking lot, it’s a must do test piece of the aspiring Black Hills hard-man.  The burly, friction loving, crystal crimping, runout climbing crushers of the Black Hills will say it puts hair on your chest and then run across the top of a bus disappearing into the orange pines to go wipe their ass with a pine bough and solo a 12b slab (you may only get that if you’re from there). And that’s the girls.  But I got a response back saying my classification of the Black Hills as a “hidden gem” was an over-used phrase that made editors throw up in their mouth and move on to the next article without a glance at the rest of your hard work and effort (so I’m a little bitter).  Unfortunately, that asshole editor was all too correct, and I ate my words as I read blog after blog and articles amassed about some silly climber and their silly hidden gem in some silly forest somewhere and that everyone else was silly for not being there.  I was just another face in the crowd, but now I write to you with a hidden gem in my pocket, and for lack of a better phrase, I’m gonna use it anyway damnit!

Since my move to the DC area I assumed I’d find good climbing here or there but have been pleasantly surprised at the amount of available stone within reach of the overcrowded DC metro area.  To name a few well known areas there’s South Mountain, Morgan Run NEA, and Northwest Branch, and a recently introduced area the “Levitation Boulders” of Patapsco State Park.  All which are sitting right under the noses of thousands of climbers but of course, it’s too hard to juggle your big boy/girl job and find any time to get away from the gym, plus, it’s cold and your fingies might get hurt! For those proud few who venture out to play on these beautiful (minus the grotesque graffiti) boulders nestled among a sea of brown leaves, my hat is off to you.  Thanks for the work you have put in.

Crystal Crimps, V4, the problem is a 3 star problem but this is a 5 star boulder as far as aesthetics goes!

Crystal Crimps, V4, the problem is a 3 star problem but this is a 5 star boulder as far as aesthetics goes!

However, this heavy winded introduction is not for the climbing of Maryland, but rather, for that of the ole PA.  Or Pennsylvania for you geographical, educational laymen.

Southwest Pennsylvania, or SWPA as the locals call it, is largely covered by the Allegheny Mountains and Pittsburg.  Geographically speaking, its a rolling hills area with steep timbered valleys full of “runs” or small mountain streams I refer more to as a babbling brook.  At the ridge tops of these valleys, ancient layers of rock have been exposed over the years revealing solid stone that has been dubbed PA Gritstone.  A sandstone of sorts that reminds me a lot of a more textured, higher grit Horse Pens, or LRC.  I was joined by my girlfriend Jessie, a newb to the life who is currently trying to get her Lead Belaying Badge and her Sport Climbing Badge.  We stayed in Ohiopyle State Park, which I can’t say without a guttural southern drawl for some reason. Ohiopyle actually lists “Rock Climbing” as one of the available activities of their park, which is refreshing to see that a public is accepting of us chalk wielding rock junkies.  They even mark the climbing on their state park maps and have little signs in front of each wall naming the wall which makes things really easy if all you have is the Mtn Project app.  We first went to the Schoolhouse Crag, a steep wall overlooking the Youghiogheny  River (Yawk-uh-gay-nee).  This wall is packed with roof over roof over roof, very resemblant of Horseshoe Canyon ranch.  The longest line being 90 ft, but its a small concentration of good climbing, not a destination, but really solid climbing nonetheless.  We spent most of that chilly day there and ventured to other walls in the area (there’s three really good walls, about 15 worthwhile lines total).  Jessie caught her first falls, and clipped her first bolts before we left.  Her Elvis Leg is as fresh as a baby giraffe but she’s hanging in there.

jessie and i

Jessie, Sadey and I at the Schoolhouse Crag in Ohiopyle State Park

Day two we ventured out to what appears to be a small area on Mtn. Project, called Coll’s Cove.  Listed solely as a bouldering destination I was sucked in by the few pics I saw.  On Mtn. Proj the developer listed that there were access issues to the parking area, and that if you wished to climb there to email him first so he could get you permission to park in a nearby landowner’s yard.  I did so and he referred me to a facebook page with ~200 likes or so for updated parking info.  Amazingly enough, this backwoods landowner had allowed parking in his yard for a $5 fee dropped into a metal toolbox nailed to a fence post with a hole just big enough for a rolled up dollar bill to fit into.

A short hike down a Public Lands access road leads past a few small areas to an expanse of beautiful moss covered gritstone boulders nestled in among a tangle of green thorns and rhododendron trees growing out of anything with a wee bit of soil.  This green oasis among an ocean of brown sucked me into its calm, quiet, uninhabited radicalness.  Not another soul was in sight and the temps couldn’t have been better.  I spent the entire day getting on anything I found aesthetic below a V7 so I could keep the mileage rolling on these ultra classics.  I left wishing I could spend months here, but Pennsylvania’s popular rifle bear hunting season was just a few days away and climbing closure’s sweep the state to keep in good graces with the other 98% of the population.

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Croc Hunter, V6, my favorite line of the day, this wall is actually significantly steeper than it appears in this photo.

This place doesn’t have a legit guidebook yet, a kind gentleman and his crew of crushers have been cleaning, developing trails, making landings, chalking holds and taking pics for the rest of us.  They currently have an online pamphlet available with the area’s classics.  There is still room for development, in just my short one day stint I found a handful of problems completely untouched, and uncleaned ready for an FA.  This place has truly showed me that regardless of how many new climbs are going up and how quick the population of developers is going up, there is still a lot of climbing out there that is yet to be found, good climbing.

Happy Searching!

Super fun V4- with an incredible sequence.

Super fun V4- with an incredible sequence.

Jessie on top of the ultra classic V2, "White Lightning"

Jessie on top of the ultra classic V2, “White Lightning”

Jessie working Triple X, V3

Jessie working Triple X, V3

Stingray Stand, V4

Stingray Stand, V4

Jessie and I in front of a PA "run" in Ohiopyle State Park

Jessie and I in front of a PA “run” in Ohiopyle State Park

Categories: Climbing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A New Climbing Season, A New Life

Last night a breeze picked up and the pitter patter of dried leaves hitting the pavement sparked a drive I was just beginning to lose. The humidity that’s been draped over me the last five months has been dried up by a crisp wind and chilly evenings. The summer haze has lifted revealing stark blue skies and a glow that kisses the skin instead of burning it. It’s that time to break out tents and sleeping bags and sit around fires wearing jackets and beanies. It’s time to use the zippers on our bags, the flys on our tents, the drawstrings on our mummies. It’s time for gloves, time for pumpkins, time for flannel. But most of all, it’s time for friction. It’s climbing season again.

arkpost3

Recently my life has been developing into a dirtbag paradise. I’ve always dreamed of a lifestyle where I could make enough money to take long stints of time off for climbing and other adventures. The catch is finding a job that allows me to take such long periods of time off and still have a job. I’ve never been satisfied as a weekend warrior because trips become too routine and are limited to no more than 5 hour drives.

In a weird turn of events I’ve stumbled onto just that job.

If you know much about me then you know that back in January I quit both of my jobs in Salt Lake City and started living out of the bed of my F-150 and traveling for a bit. I fell in love with that lifestyle for a few really good reasons. One I love seeing my friends and they live all over the country! Two I love the spontaneity of a life on the road where I can chase the weather or see a picture in a magazine and say “I wanna go climb that route.” My ultimate goal in leaving SLC was to end my travels in Rapid City, SD and start a rock climbing gym there as a career.

As I traveled I began to think about what my life would be like as the owner of a climbing gym. I knew it could go many ways but I pictured being married to the gym forever and my hopes of being a traveling adventurer wouldn’t be met. I continued to pursue the gym and even acquired the funding I needed through a generous investment from a good friend. So there I sat, my tips pointed straight down the slope to my dream, ready to take the plunge but I couldn’t dig my poles in to send me over the edge. The idea of settling into the rest of my life just seemed too cliche and so when a cell phone tower climbing job in Dallas randomly fell in my lap I slowly started to consider it.

The next thing I knew I was renting a three bedroom house in the Lake Highlands area of Dallas with one of my very best friends, working 90 hour work weeks on cell phone towers all over Texas. I struggled to take time off to get away from the heat. My climbing decreased drastically, I hated Texas and it’s heat and over crowded cities. However, I was paying off debts and taking baby steps towards a life of travel.

looking down tower me tower me tower 2 taylor tower

I’m currently broken away from the company I originally started with in Texas because I was uncomfortable with the guy I worked for. Instead, I’m now my own general contractor for wireless solutions including work on the ground and on the tower. I make more money and I can choose when I want to work and when I don’t want to work. And the best part is I can take on work in different states and regions.

The start of this climbing season marks the biggest changes my life has ever seen and my stoke is through the roof. I have an amazing girlfriend who deserves this shoutout and more. I’m making great money and meeting new people all over the country. And in the next few months I will have broken the lease on my Dallas house freeing myself from that hell people actually choose to live in, and I will be buying a camper to pull behind my truck and I will be living out of that. I will have regular long periods of time of between extreme periods of workaholism. Between projects I will simply drive my camper to a desired location and call that home until my next wireless project.

jessie and i jessie and i 2

This climbing season is my rebirth.

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Cognitive Paleontology (Read to learn what that is)

I made my first cross country trip when I was two months old.  When I say cross country, I mean we drove from southeast Alabama to central Alaska, the epitome of cross-country.  We continued to live in Alaska for four years after that.  Unfortunately, I have very few memories from Alaska, however few they are, I feel lucky to have them.  I sat down and tried to remember everything I could about Alaska.  I remember a lot of water.  Lakes, streams, raging rivers, snow, ice, glaciers, waterfalls.  I only remember tiny blips of major events; little snapshots of somewhere but I couldn’t tell you where we were or why we were there.  It got me to thinking, what is my first full memory?

It’s an odd thing to think about.  The earliest occurrence your mind can store? It’s an archaic piece of information that your conscious found necessary to keep around.  It’s like searching for a fossil in the ground, in a way it defines a lot about you right? Just like a fossil defines a lot about what Earth used to be like? Cognitive paleontology if you will.

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My dad and my brother Ryan a long time ago.

I thought about it for a long time, just when I thought I had it I’d remember something else.  It took a while, but I think I’ve finally hit rock bottom, my oldest complete memory.

We had just moved to a new house in Alaska.  I can see little details about the house but can’t really remember the house.  It had a steep driveway, and a playground with a sandbox next to it.  (I remember trying to ride a bike sans training wheels for the first time and crashing into the sandbox, but this one is even earlier).  I remember there being a large field next to our house, with a sidewalk winding through it.  On the far side of the field was a forest.  When I think about the forest, it seems incredibly far away, as if I’m going to have to partake in an epic, Narnia-esque journey across that field to get there.

My parents (and maybe one of their friends?) were in the house doing something.  The house was still relatively empty and I was bored and decided I was going to get to that forest, even if I had to enlist a giant lion and an army to help me there.  I don’t remember getting there but now I’m in the forest.  It looks huge, as far in as I can see, it’s trees.  Trees standing tall, trees growing small, tress leaning sideways, trees on the ground, trees all around (that was my try at some Dr. Suess).  I was playing on the edge of the forest and I stepped up onto an old tree stump.

Below me there was a depression in the ground.  Filling the depression was a swarm of flies.  I remember thinking “wow, that is a LOT of flies.”  My three year old mind was fascinated, and I could picture myself standing in that swarm of flies and flailing my arms around, and what cooler way of getting in there than jumping right?  I squatted low till my butt was touching my heels and jumped as high as I could above the swarm of flies, landing on my feet in the middle of the winged tornado. If this were a slow motion scene in a movie, I’d have the biggest smile on my face as as I spun around (the camera would pan opposite my spinning for some dramatic effect) arms in the air, childish giggles would be the only sound you could hear over the buzzing.  I remember I could hear them buzzing way louder now that I was dominating them.

They were bees.

(scene change, music change, fast motion now, only sound is a kid screaming).

With the first sting, my flailing turned from joy to pain.  Screaming, I sprinted across the field as fast as my little legs could take me.  The “flies” still stinging me.  Tears running down my face, mouth wide open in that typical three year old scream I flew into our house covered in bee stings to find my mom frantically scrambling to see the problem.  End memory.

I don’t remember what she did, if I felt better, how many stings I had.  Nothing.  The entire memory stops with me getting into the house and seeing my mom sitting on the floor.

What is your first memory? Type it in a comment, or leave it for me on Facebook, I’m intrigued!

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Sacrifices

The older I get. The more experienced I feel, and the farther I travel, the more I feel like I grow even farther away from figuring life out.  One thing I’ve come to realize is that life is a series of ups and downs and you’ve got to learn to traverse the valleys and enjoy the summits.  At almost 23 I haven’t even lived a quarter of my potential life span, and yet a single day can still get me down.  A single person, a single action can affect my entire day, or my entire week, or linger even longer.  I get all wound up around a single thought, but then I realize; the rest of my life will be filled with these, day in and day out I will be dealing with people coming and going in my life, problems arising, and problems being solved.  It’s thoughts like that which ease my mind.  Whatever I’m dealing with now, will be minuscule in a year, if I even remember why I’m upset.  Once you realize that, you can wash away the stresses and traverse your valley.

I’m constantly looking ahead in life and wondering how my life will look in ten years and whether or not I’ll be happy.  It always seems to sway in multiple directions.  Sometimes I see future Reed the same as I am today.  Working for enough money to travel for a while, still feeding a lifestyle and finding myself pitted on a few crimpers hundreds of feet up some rock face.  That future Reed sleeps alone on the couches of his happily married friends though, and while that future Reed is happy there’s always doubts to every choice in life.  Other times I picture future Reed waking up in a warm bed, to an alarm clock set to the same time every day.  The face of a pretty girl sleeping next to him as he goes through the motions of his morning.  The kids get their breakfast and catch the bus just in time for him to drive to the same job he did the day before, only to look forward to the pretty face he woke up next to.  The happiness of his life lying in his family instead of his endeavors.  That Reed looks really happy too, but what are his doubts?

kid bus stop

All those ups, all those downs, all that experience, all that traveling, all that growing all revolves around sacrifices.  Coming to terms with which sacrifices are worth making is turning out to be the hardest thing about life.  However life turns out for me, whether I’m holding little hands at the bus stop every day or I’m hitting the approach trail at sunrise every day, somewhere along the line I’m going to have to make a sacrifice that will change future Reed to present Reed.

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Outdoor Living

I constantly try to pinpoint a time in my life when my outlook on living changed.  A single event that swayed me towards this life of outdoor pursuits instead of being a video gamer, or a couch barnacle which so many others my age have become.  My family and I lived in Newport News, VA for about five years, or about 5th grade to 9th grade.  It was the time of my life when I was trying my hardest to impress girls and have cool friends (wait that’s my entire life).  I remember I wore a pair of khaki cargo pants, a yellow fleece vest and a pair of silver slip on shoes to my first day of 5th grade.  Obviously, I was still reaching for a grasp of cool. I spent the entire first day surveying the girls in the room trying to decide which one I thought was the cutest in order to make her my “girlfriend” and be the coolest kid in school by association.  My friends and I used big boy words to talk so other people around us knew we were tough.  We talked about video games, you know, who had the highest scores, who had the best aim, who was the fastest racer, who had the most games.  Video games were really fun for me but I got bored of them easily and before long I’d venture outside and hike through the woods or throw rocks at something, maybe build an infamous plywood and bricks bike jump in the front yard.  However, if I had friends over we’d stay inside and play Madden until our eyes burned.  It was an easy peer pressure to slip into at that age.

bike jump

Every year my dad would load up the F250 and drive us out to Douthat State Park in the Appalachians.  I was always a little jaded towards it because we had to drive “forever” to get there and it would eat up a weekend I could spend with my friends.  One year we spent Christmas in a cabin in Douthat, and my dad took us for a hike Christmas day right after we opened presents.  It had snowed recently and the temps were in the upper 30’s leaving all the streams running on  high.  Our hike led us up to some of the highest elevations in the Appalachians as we boulder hopped along ridge lines looking down on the massive expanse of trees and rolling hills below us.  We dropped back down into the comfort of the dense forest.  I remember at this point we weren’t even on a trail anymore and I was concerned we were going to be lost.  My dad told me we would simply follow this stream straight down hill and it would cross our original trail and from there we could make our way back to the cabin.  At the start of the hike, Dad had given me a full gatorade, which of course I failed to ration so my parched throat was itching for a little wet.  My dad took the bottle and squatted down in front of the tiny stream that we had been following.  He looked at the water and told me it was clean enough to drink.  At the time, my ten year old mind couldn’t fathom the idea of drinking water straight from a stream.  I don’t remember exactly what he said but it was along these lines:

“Kneel down here I’ll teach how to tell if the water is clean.  This is a state park so there aren’t any cattle that can taint this water source with any viruses.  We’re pretty close to the ridge line and you can tell by how small the stream bed is that this stream is only around during melt times and the rainy season.  So it doesn’t travel over farmlands or through human traffic areas so it has no real contaminants.  So what we’ll do now is find a place where the water is falling off of a lip so we can get the bottle under there without stirring up any sediment. Make sure you don’t stir up the water above where you’re going to fill up so there’s no sediment in the water.  Lastly, never take water from a standing pool because it could be stagnant.”

At that point he dipped the bottle under a small drop and filled it full of crystal clear, naturally chilled, Appalachian Mountain stream water.  He took a big swig of the water and held it up for me to see.  I took a drink too and couldn’t believe how much better it tasted than water from the tap, or water in those bottles labeled “Spring Water.”  It was absolutely the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me outside.  I remember all I wanted was to run back to the cabin and show Paula (step mom) that we had collected stream water and drank it without a filter.  I think if I had to remember a time when the outdoors began to outweigh everything else in life, that would be it.  From that point on in my life I began to find a lot more joy in the things I found outside than the things I saw on the TV screen.  Before long I completely stopped using video game consoles and by the time I graduated high school I was maybe playing video games for an hour or two a year and that was usually when I was with someone else.  I went to college and had the only room on my hall that didn’t have a video game console for the entire time I lived in the dorms.  That one little bottle of fresh mountain water might have completely changed my outlook on life and the way I live it to date.  Above all of the deer I shot, the runs I ski’d, the trails I biked, the rivers I rafted, the tents I slept in, or the rocks I climbed, that little bottle of water signified a purity I couldn’t find in any video game, and has led me to barely scratch the surface of a long life outside.

 

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