Near the end of my twenty-third summer, I got it in my head that I should try free soloing. It wasn’t in a single moment that the idea came to me, but rather over the course of a disaster-style summer, punctuated by a series of nudges in that direction.
Kids at work ask me all the time where I live. I always point at my little Kelty two-man tent, and they almost never believe me.
“No way, Miss!” they exclaim in a tone of mixed disbelief and curiosity. I must seem almost crazy enough for it to be true. The tents we set up for kids will sleep ten in a pinch; my tiny two-man (which is for one person, really) looks to them far too small to sleep even one adult human. Often, a kid will ask if it’s a tent for dogs. They want to know if I have a TV in there.
My initial flirtation with Funemployment this January turned into a steamy love affair, and things got a little out of hand. I thought I had a job lined up to start in the middle of February, but a series of setbacks finally ended in the realization that I was going to have to work something else out. By then, though, I’d gotten used to skiing every day and having time to eat and sleep in addition to attending class, and “figuring something else out” was something I kept saying I was doing but was really just kind of ignoring and hoping it’d go away.
I like to think of the great explorers of our age whenever I’m out in the wilderness. I’m certainly a weenie compared to Teddy Roosevelt, but his adventures are perhaps the most inspiring to me. After sorely losing the 1912 presidential election, Roosevelt, his son Kermit, a Brazilian Colonel, and a troop of assorted adventurers set out to chart the River of Doubt, a tributary of the Amazon flanked on all sides by dangerous flora and fauna and choked with impassable rapids. Roosevelt nearly lost his life, and the story of his expedition to the River of Doubt is one that will render your most gut-wrenching outing completely moot. You could argue that Roosevelt was the last great all-around adventurer of our time, and you might very well be right. Adventurers today aren’t nearly so versatile.
The Centennial State has been good to me so far. In the wake of my grief over losing Lucky, I find myself most at peace when my poor, sea level-spoiled lungs are gasping for thin, Rocky Mountain air. It’s the pounding on my knees, the familiar, repetitive motions, the sun beating down on my already sunburned shoulders. The throbbing and aching and sweating are welcome if fleeting distractions, and the runners’ high after a long jaunt is usually enough to ward off Lucky-related tears for awhile.