When we share our ideas and adventures, it creates new possibilities. I had been thinking about climbing Decker Peak in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains for a few years. Three weeks ago, I crossed paths with two fast-moving climbers headed to the peak via a long approach. They gave me a quick synopsis of the route and then sped off. After completing that backpacking trip, I used Summitpost.org to read climber’s reviews and insights. Then I read a 2015 trip report on Idaho Alpine Zone. The trip report put together a route I had not considered and had me mapping out a new itinerary. So we returned to the mountains for a three-day backpack trip and spent nine hours on the middle day hiking to the base of the peak, ascending, and then returning to camp. Creating a route employing the knowledge of those that had tackled the climb beforehand made for an optimistic mindset. Even though we may travel alone, following the steps of those who have proceeded us changes our outlook on what is possible.
I enjoy stories about wayfinding. Individuals oriented towards a vision that will forever change their worldview, regardless of success or failure. I read an excerpt from The Sun is a Compass in the New York Times and immediately downloaded the book. I found myself engrossed in a remarkable journey. As an adventurous couple prepare for a 4,000 mile journey across Alaska and Canada, they navigate the perils of planning and encountering the unknown. Caroline and Pat, embody something of a modern Lewis and Clark mixed with the spirit of Klondike Gold Rush, and channeling the naturalist John Muir. The story follows their epic adventure, one which I cannot easily fathom.
They capture the essence of wayfinding throughout the quest.
Pat has never regarded a to-do list as a worthy endeavor. Perhaps it’s how he maintains his optimism, working as hard and as fast as he can, dreaming only of the outcome, not the possibility of failure.
Imagine dreaming so big that the scale cannot be represented without being distorted.
I create a giant timetable of what needs to go where and on which date. Pat tapes dozens of topographic maps to the wall and trace our intended routes on each of them. When the maps begin to tilt crookedly, I snap at Pat to be more careful before he calmly informs me that it’s not his sloppy taping job, but the curvature of the earth that’s responsible. The scale is that big.
They embrace disruption constantly.
In order to stay on schedule, we have to follow the ocean’s clock, not our own…at the edge of a volatile and unforgiving ocean, waiting is our safety margin.
And, they recognize the importance of adapting to the real world, despite what the map suggests.
Now I realize a line on a map is only that. We’ve planned our route around elevation contours and river bends, but we have no idea what we will find really. Everything can change in a day. In an instant.
What are you working on that is so big that it cannot be fully visualized? What feels monumental? What is holding us back from striking out into wild territories, knowing that the journey will transform us and those we seek to inspire?
Sometimes the journey is difficult and we seek safety and certainty about the outcome of the adventure. Sometimes the conditions turn, our assumptions prove wrong, and the final result tips towards failure. When these moments finally pass, we are able to reflect back with sharper details and sensations than most moments. I recall how cold my hands felt at the end of a winter training session when I under dressed and the headwind generated polar windchill factors. I hunker down when I feel intense heat, memories of crawling into structure fires as a volunteer firefighter. I skip a breathe thinking of my front road bike tire unable to maintain traction as I slid across the pavement, five hours into a twelve hour cycling competition. I see traces of the cycling wound, my fingers are haunted by a phantom numbness, and the heat from a bonfire sets off a reflex to go low.
These memories from our wildest adventures add depth to our being. They do not define us because we will find new journeys with equally perilous outcomes. To believe we are defined is to suggest that we have finished exploring. Seek out the difficult and challenging. The reason we continue to plan and set goals is due to the human element and that is what adds depth to the journey.
You never know what we might discover when we seek out new experiences and interactions. Staying curious is one of our greatest traits.