It is all too often that I will call a friend some early and random morning to see about a hike. It is also all to often that I get a response of “eh’ not today.” It led me to wonder what drives people in the morning, or the day for that matter. Clearly, what drives me isnt what drives them. If it was, the sheer idea of being out there today, in the woods, with nothing to do but hike, would get them out of the house. It doesn’t.
On instagram, I am no hero. That being said, I have taken a following of under 100 and gotten it to more than 6 times that solely based upon the pictures I took of the outdoors. Although I follow a few less than follow me, the common theme between both is that we all love the outdoors. We have created friendships through mutual passions and interests. I can only hope to be lucky enough to share trail time with each and every one of them. On instagram I have this acquaintance, Mitch. He is always out hiking, and he doesn’t care about the weather. I have yet to see him use “not today” as an excuse. To the point that I look forward now to seeing where he and his little dog, Aspyn, have trudged today. The coolest thing about Mitch, is when he sees my pictures up from hiking in 2017’s worst blizzard he comments something about wishing he could go. He sees my dirty hiker trash self mid trail and always mentions something about being there. The difference between Mitch and most… I believe Mitch. (Check out some of the great thoughts Mitch has about hiking here: http://mitchincolorado.com/2014/04/20/should-i-stay/ ) It is people like Mitch I need more of around here to say the least. Mitch, and many others led me to wonder about the all to common ability to push things off until tomorrow.
(Mitch taking on winter)
(Mitch bearing the ice and snow)
That being said, it wasnt but a few days ago that I hit the grocery store only to have 1500 people out of our 6000 person census greet me with the reminder that a storm was coming. As they furiously piled in the store for their last minute bottled water, frozen pizzas, and red box movies i quietly, through thought, thanked each and every one of them. Not for a reminder of the storm, but as a reminder that they would be all cozied up inside tomorrow and trails would be people free! As they were there for last minute supplies, I was there for a bag of ginger candy to bring with me on trail the following day. I decided I would hit the trail even though they were calling for 24” of snow, below freezing temperatures and 60 mp gusts of wind.
Personally, I see a purpose out there. My purpose is different than yours and I have stressed that so many times, but we all have one. It is an amazing thing to me to see the heards of tourists all pile onto the same trail during that 85F summer day. Here they are shoulder to shoulder, cant move, and can hardly breathe, but they are there. Then come late fall or winter when the trails are empty, the views are nothing but snow covered beauty, and the bugs are gone, there is NOBODY! Now dont get me wrong, I am not complaining. Maybe because I enjoy the bad days as much as the good, but all the same I am not complaining. Anyways it got me thinking… “Who can i sucker into a hike tomorrow?”
My best friend, Josh, hes a little different. Different in the fact that he is completely ok with our tradition of terrible decision making and out of the norm ideas. One person I can ALWAYS count on is Josh. Ive turned around during the worst times in my life and there he was, smiling with gritted teeth saying something like “This is going to suck so fucking bad.” Its on the worst days of the worst of days that he is calling saying something like “So where should we go?” Fifteen years ago I used to laugh it off as a joke. Now, today, i put my gear on before I even call him back. So i knew he would be going and surer than all shit, the morning of the storm he rang. 5:30am on a snow day and my phone rings. I answer with a “where to?” and am received by a “Great Pond Mountain after we dig the cars out!” I just assure him ill be over to his house when i am able to get out of mine and I will have coffee in hand. Hes in!
Then in an attempt to be outside the box and give everyone I can an opportunity to go, I put it up on Snap chat. “Going to play outside. Come with? Message me!”. I go outside, i shovel out the driveway… 2 hours later I am back inside where my brother had made coffee. Upon seeing me strap up my gaiters he said “Man I thought you would think I am crazy if I asked you to hike today!” (My brother and I are in the newer stages of getting to know each other intimately and outside of our dysfunctional family setting) I let him know hes more than welcome and much to my surprise, without hesitation he heads to his room to start getting geared up. My brother has spent most of his life in a prison cell so hes quite new to the outdoors let alone backpacking, but always willing to adventure. Less the occasional “DO YOU THINK THIS IS OK TO WEAR?” coming from his room, he was pretty quiet. Come to find later that his nerves had gotten the best of him and he was questioning himself and me…”is my fucking brother stupid or crazy?” Turns out… your brother, my friend, is neither. He is however an against the grain naturalist who doesnt use mother nature as an excuse not to experience mother nature. Oh the irony there.
Anyways, I remembered my snap chat and checked it to see if anyone was up to play. 136 views in 2 hours and only 3 messages. All of them similar in context… “youre seriously going to hike today?” “Youre fucking nuts” “whats wrong with you?”. I just shook my head, laughed, and deleted the snap. It looks like its me, my brother, and my best friend this time around. (To Mitch’s credit, he would have gone too i know it.)
One of the greatest revelations I have ever had was on this treacherously gorgeous day. You know how old folks say something like “Back when I was young, we hiked up hill both ways in the snow!” Truth be told i always thought the Alzheimer’s gave them some sort of distorted memory of uphill and downhill. Until today. As we were laughing and happily bitching, we all three at the same time threw our fingers in the air as if to say that we had “got it”. *Queue light bulb*. We first laughed at the irony of all three of us just simply having an idea…. and to find it was the same one. This is what those old folks meant! I was the one bitching at the time saying something like “Holy fuck, going downhill is literally the same as going up hill”. Turns out… in literal waist deep snow….it actually is. Going down was literally the exact same effort as going up. We unanimously decided that this is exactly what they meant and in fact the innuendo has more meaning now than it ever had in our pasts. Our ages differing between us all, but our revelation none the less a real one.
Here we are… at the top. It is small mountain, with a summit only 1200 feet above sea level. That being said, its a bare top with few trees and a 360 degree view. The wind is all of 60mph and the temperature with the windchill was most definitely below 0 degrees F. We had hunkered down behind a ledge which got us out of the wind long enough to adjust everything and grab a drink of water. The snow was falling as fast as it had in the early morning hours and was accumulating with no less desire. A desire to bury coastal Maine in it’s wake. As we took deep breathes, exhaling on our fingers as we furiously wiggled our toes in our boots to increase circulation, we lay there… each and every one of us with a smile on our face. We were in pain, we were cold, wet, hungry (none of us had eaten that day) and miserable by most peoples standards, but by ours we were happy.
We all chatted for a few brief moments to come to the agreements that 1. this was absolutely the furthest any of us had walked in weather like this. 2.This was unquestionably the hardest walking any of us had done. 3. We were all really fucking hungry. 4. We were glad we came. That being said we all still had to get home. So down we headed.
We got back to the truck to find that 4 miles had taken us just over 6 hours. As a long distance hiker I am pretty familiar with my times and pace. Some of the hardest parts on trail that I have hiked I could carry at least 1.5 mph. My Katahdin hikes have never come in under 2. I was baffled that it took us as long as it had. Honestly I thought we made pretty good ground, but hindsight, we had to take a break every 20 or so steps. We were letting our vehicles warm up over a joint and we all agreed on a few more things. That after that day, every other day would seem just a tiny bit easier. Any warmer temperature would not be THAT cold. Every hike would seem just a LITTLE less strenuous. That our ability to survive was now backed by our willingness and confidence in doing so. There was nothing that could stop us at that point and we knew that. Hell, we KNOW that. We most definitely knew that choosing to be outside on that very day made the difference for so many days to follow.
So I write this for simple reasons. To get your opinion on what is wrong with today? Why is it, “Not today” or “in a minute” or “ill do that tomorrow” is even acceptable? Not by my standards but by your own, for yourself. Having the ignorance to travel during the worst day of the year, to a place that most people avoid on the nice days, led to a completely different view about the “tomorrow’s” of my life. Maybe its not hiking for you… maybe its just doing a good deed… or standing up for what you believe in… or tackling the year old project that you’ve been pushing off. All the same, today is the day! What is wrong with today? Don’t wait until tomorrow! It may never come!