Prologue: I promised “The 6 Most Important Learnings From My Summer”. As I read through all of these posts (most all of them were written in one complete sitting) I know full well that they make the most sense when taken all together as a complete, summary explanation of the personal growth that I have experienced in this summer. It’s is difficult for me to post these learnings individually mostly because when I read them one at a time, isolated, none of them jump off the screen as profound. So while it is indulgent to ask, I hope you take the time to read all of them as though they were neatly packaged in a ebook sort of experience. Yesterday I posted the first one in this series, MINIMAL, which in fact was the second one because I had already written the first one about VALUE earlier this summer.
#3 – WILD
It is midnight.
I am sitting on the shore of the lake that is twenty minutes from my home. I hadn’t planned to finish writing this blog in this setting with the moon peering through the clouds and the waves lapping off the break wall, but geez it sure it fitting. I can smell the rain in the air, really wanting to spit out some actual drops, but realistically I am in the desert and it’s probably not going to happen. (In fact, the skies did finally let loose with record setting torrential rain that made me run for cover around 2:00 AM while I was still writing at the lake.)
I have been back to living in my suburban residence now for one whole week.
This time last week I was resting my body after two full weeks of outdoor adventures in the great expanses of Alaska and the surreal beauty of the Wonderland Trail that circumnavigates Mount Rainier in Washington.
I grew up in Northern Idaho.
Approximately 60 miles south of Canada, in what is now a resort town, but at the time was the waining lumber industry’s hub of Sandpoint, Idaho. My mother lived her whole life in Sandpoint until her mid-thirties. Her father lived his whole life in that area until he passed away. My parents nestled us into a small circle of homes that is a few miles beyond this tiny town. Outside of the 20 homes along the dirt road (which was probably a suburban paradise compared with the rest of town) my literal backyard was fields, trees, wooded land, mountains, and creeks that ran strong when the snow melted off the surrounding mountains.
I spent my formative years outside.
Three of my buddies lived nearby. Every afternoon when school let out we were playing ball in yards that had no fences, sledding the hill out back, ranging the woods creating forts, floating the creeks are far as our homemade rafts would take us and often wandering much further than my mother would even dare to let herself imagine even to this day. BB-guns in tow we shot things we weren’t supposed to and played Rambo with knives I’d probably still not let my own 11 year old own to this day.
We picked up and moved to Arizona when I was 14.
The dramatic shift in our lives from the wild of North Idaho to the concrete blocked yards of metropolitan Phoenix was radically shocking in every way possible. I loved it. I have never once been bitter or sad about the adventure and the incredible opportunities that came my way with that move. To a certain degree, I never lost my sense of adventure for the outdoors. My bike road faster on the paved roads and sidewalks. I still found ways to go places I did not ask my mom for permission. But for the remainder of my teen years and the first half of my twenties, I didn’t go back to the wild places.
And then I found a mistress.
In the midst of struggles and wrestling with personal small little demons, a new friend (now an older brother of sorts) introduced me to mountain biking. He saw that if we were ever going to really connect that it would have to be alongside an activity that harnessed my energy, took an edge off my raw nature and gave us something more tangible to share than a beer or some bullshit chat. I took that first mountain bike (the one he gave me on permanent loan) and I coupled it with my Bible and cycled away.
I melded my love of mountain biking with my desire to know God.
If mountain biking was the second iteration of my love for the outdoors personified, then triathlon-ing has been the third iteration. I will save you the detailed account, but needless to say it came about because of some punk ass 20-somethings who thought that they could beat an overweight pastor in an Olympic Tri. Ha! They lost. And they have continued to lose year after year although they be 10 years younger.
The Wild is spiritual for me.
I will let you use your own definition for God, but I am convinced that the creator of the world is more easily experienced when I strip away the clutter of buildings, unplug from internet connectivity, and put distance between me and the noise of clambering cities. When the breeze is fresh upon my unshaved face and I am able to cast off modern social considerations, my mind is more alive. I am able to capture succinct truths about leadership, my life, my children. In the simplicities of aloneness on a trail thoughts are distilled, convictions laid bare. And the wonder of this life and world, those most important things, certainly become more self evident.
And now there is something new.
Words can’t capture the amazing times of being free in Alaska and around Mt. Rainier, but those places have ushered in a forth iteration for how I hope to enjoy the life of being in the wild. Backpacking! I spent 7 straight days roaming around Alaska, sleeping in a tent, hiking without a map or a trail. I encountered grizzly bears, bald eagles, caribou and so much more. I stood in the rain and waited for the sun to break through, then I was gifted a rainbow for my patience. Then I traveled south to Mt. Rainier and began the adventures all over again. My cousin and I backpacked the Wonderland trail, covering 93 miles around the mountain in 5 days. It kicked our asses and destroyed our feet in all of the best ways. We made new friends out on the trail. I huddled in more rain to enjoy the sweet awesomeness of top ramen chicken noodles. We craved beer climb after climb and then guzzled it’s goodness as soon as we were done. And these short sentences can’t begin to describe the incredible experiences and life that came from these two weeks in the wild. Next time, you should just come with me.