I’m sitting here, Saturday afternoon August 31, 2013 at Lindsey’s parents’ house getting my seasonal dose of religion on ESPN.
This will be the last time I do that for a month. Doesn't sound so bad when you put it that way.
Today at some point Lindsey and I depart for California to hike the John Muir trail.
Originally we were going to do this trip 5 years ago. For many reasons, mostly excuses, we did not do it.
Months earlier this year we talked about the feasibility of doing this. Back then I worked for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. When I ran the concept of being gone for 3+ weeks by them…they said no thanks.
As things would unfold, I would be deemed redundant anyway and lose my job at Parks and wildlife in favor of grant programs and private groups and middle management decisions.
I concurrently worked at another place over the past 1.3 years. I filled out my time off request. It was immediately approved. I’ve been gearing up for the past couple of months. Researching, buying gear, digging things out of storage.
I’m not going to bore with the details, specs, logistics of the trip. If you’re interested, look it up. Google it. Read about it. I will bother with “why?”
Because it’s there. Because it’s hard. Because it requires a completely different aspect of life, living, planning.
And there are those who say no. Don’t do it, you can’t be gone that long, you need to work, it’s not safe. The older generation. The “responsible” generation.
There are those who don’t see why to even do a trip like this, to hike, to be outdoors, to be exposed, and to face a 3 week long test of your planning, mental acumen, adaptability. The Netflix generation. The “sit and watch” generation.
It is not the critic who counts.
I’ve just exited the hot humid cube of a bathroom after what is likely my last shower for a 4 weeks.
My life is packed in to 61 liters of space. My home. My food. My possessions. No deodorant. No razor blade.
And in the time spent taking that last shower, all of the final planning issues, concerns, worries were washed away in a shower of bad puns.
The insurance coverage, the faxing, the planning, the emails, the training, the work, the bank deposits, the postal service, the economy, the world political climate, the family ties and obligations, the looking forward…constantly. The never ending anticipation of the next bill, the next move, the next class, the next project, the next purchase, the next fight.
It’s all done. What has been done is done. What has not been done will wait. It will have to. And the shocking news is that the world will keep spinning. Everything will be right back there, a violently spinning Ferris wheel of non-stop do-this and do-that.
What we do now is find out not if, but where we fall. We find out where the trail goes, what adventure has in store for us. We see what challenges we adapt to, what struggles, pain, and adversity comes our way. Now- we fail. And we have fun at it.
It’s not the critic who counts. Not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or how the doer of deeds could have done them better.
We leave to hike 210 miles. We leave to hitchhike potions of California here there are no shuttles. We leave to head IN to the fiery breath of hell that is the rim fire and we adapt our plans to it. And when we’re dirty, smelly, soot covered, rained on, tired, muddy and covered in the clean air and fine grains of earth that mark the High Sierra, then we’ve done it right. When bones ache but aren’t broken, when feet hurt but work, when we’re scared but prepared, then we’ve done it right. We’ll be scraped and scratched and we will have failed and tried and failed, but we will proceed.
We’ll walk on a trail many others have done in many fewer days. And it will be hard and hot, it will be challenging and cold. It will be miserable and snowing. It will be perfect. And we’ll endure.
Because the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena. Whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood. Who strives valiantly. Who errs. Who comes up short again and again, but who does actually strive to do the deeds.
And maybe we’ll complete the trail. Maybe we’ll complete most of it. Maybe we’ll have to cut it short. Maybe we don’t make it, because there are no guarantees.
The reason, the “why “ for me is to experience the highs and lows, the pain, joy, troubles, solutions, and everything that comes with living life like it’s mean to be.
The reason is to know the great enthusiasms, the great devotions. To spend yourself in the worthy cause and to, at best, know in the end the triumph of great achievement and, at worst, if we fail, we fail while daring greatly.
There are critics everywhere. There are obligations and responsibilities everywhere. And there is life. I’m not submitting that life should be a never ending hike. But why is it a bad thing if it were? The forge of American society is pretty hot and heats everyone up and pours them in a pretty standard mold. Why not live while you have the chance? Why not do the things that you dare to do, that make you a little afraid.
At the end of the day, fail or succeed, win or lose, 220 miles or 20 miles…Our place will never be with those cold, timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.
Society is going away for a month. And I’m excited.
A tent, clothes, camera, food, stove, and water purification are pretty much all I have. We’ve supplies between the two of us. I’ve got wilderness first aid. California is on fire. New jobs are starting in October. New leases in October. The hassle of moving, pet deposits, bills, commuting, working come in October.
September, we’re free. And I take comfort in knowing throughout the vocal minorities words against doing such a trip, that Teddy Roosevelt had a response for them years ago.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
The car is ready to be loaded. The sun is high. The road leads west. California waits.
So does the world.
More as internet allows.