Not Invincible… And That’s The Point

“The good of going into the mountains is that life is reconsidered.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

from “The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver

When I was growing up, my mom used to say, “Oh teenagers, they think they’re invincible. Someday you’ll understand that you’re not.” She meant this in the “Please don’t drive too fast and take chances” sort of way. Rarely did I drive fast or take chances—my identity in high school was wrapped up in being the “good kid.” I thought this was just something that moms like to say so I just smiled and kindly ignored her.

As I entered my 20’s, she would occasionally ask me, “Do you still think you’re invincible?” I’d sigh and shake my head because I didn’t think I was invincible. Death was a long way from my mind but I knew that it was possible that I could die. However, doing risky things was still not part of my lifestyle. Sure, I’d found a boyfriend who took me on motorcycle rides which was something I swore I’d never do (although my now-husband would counter that they’re less risky than I thought). I also realized cars weren’t quite as safe as I’d always thought when I was in a car accident (that was entirely my fault) where I was extremely lucky to have not been seriously injured or killed. I understood that my life could easily be extinguished but it was something I only thought about when she asked.

Summit of Mt. Washington

When we climbed Mt. Washington in 2009 perhaps we weren’t as prepared as we should have been and found ourselves sort of “rappelling” off the summit with only a rope and no harnesses. Our entire party made it down safely but, looking back, that was probably the first time I experienced the “I’ve got this but if I mess up, I’ll die” feeling. Eating ice cream at Dairy Queen following the hike I was happy and content. The risk had been worth the reward and lessons had been learned.

Embracing risk has become part of how I approach adventures. The heightened sense of awareness is part of what feels so amazing about being in the outdoors. Finishing hikes that push my endurance and fears leave me feeling singularly exhilarated and alive.  My conception of what a “long” hike constitutes has changed as as has willingness to tackle serious elevation gain. (One of the reasons I love peakbagging is that I can’t ever call it “good enough” until I’m on the summit; there’s no mental wimping out with a goal to push myself towards.)

Scrambling around a summit in Arizona, I found myself pondering my mother’s question once again, “Do you still think you’re invincible?” Just recently she’d asked the question again—I think her point was that I’m 28 and should have accepted my mortality and settled down by now and  instead there I was crouched above a cliff wondering if I could in fact make it down this way.

On that cliff, I paused in my thoughts to take a deep breath and evaluate whether the next move I was going to make was wise or worth making—it wasn’t. Instead, I headed back around the peak to find a different route down.

Back at the relative safety of the summit, I realized that the whole point of living the adventurous life was that I liked remembering that I’m not invincible. Traveling, hiking, climbing, exploring, and experimenting reminded me that my life is short and its up to me to make it one worth living.

Beth & Sprocket, summit of Cardigan Peak

To be clear, it’s not that I like to do horribly risky things. I like to be in control yet know how cautious I need to be. My favorite moments are those scrambling moves that aren’t hard, they’re just exposed and a little heady. They’re the moments that remind you that life is precious and short. They’re also the moments that remind you that really should be getting outside more often and that you’ll remember your adventure a whole lot more than your freshly cut grass, clean house, or whatever it is you thought you should be doing.

There are times when my own mortality is almost palpable. Sometimes it’s the last few feet to a summit that are really exposed and sort of scary. Other times, it’s simply when I’m walking down a pathless canyon or mountain ridge with my feet safely on the ground. I feel so small and so finite in comparison to the rocks and the sky. Being surrounded by things that will last so much longer than me and are so much more sturdy, my tiny place in the world becomes that much more clear: I’m just a speck on this big world and that is an absolutely amazing thing.

To my mother: no, I don’t think I’m invincible. I know it can seem like I must think that what with adventures on the mountains, in the deserts, the canyons, and in the back-of-beyond that I must think I am. Instead, I peruse maps and trip reports and am humbled and a bit saddened the number of places I’ll likely never venture no matter how hard I adventure. I stand on summits and scan the peaks around me making mental lists of how many more I want to climb. I’m not invincible or immortal: that’s the whole point.

Horsefly Peak … Er … Horsefly Brewing

Sprocket and I got up yesterday and headed out for an adventure. Leaving our house, we drove south down Ouray County Road 1, catching glimpses of Horsefly Peak. Horsefly Peak is the highest point on the Uncomphagre Plateau and I would really like to check it off the list.

Horsefly Peak

I’d studied some maps and had reason to suspect that we might be able to get close to it from the southeastern side and drove out Dave Wood Road hoping that Hull Ridge Road was not private, or at least not gated. It wasn’t to be.

Spirits still high, we headed further north hoping to find a good jumping off place for hiking into the hills. There simply wasn’t one.

We explored the Happy Canyon Rim trail; the short version of the the longest short drive ever is that the road never really went anywhere, wasn’t particularly scenic and was unbelievably bumpy. But I was curious so we checked it out and I decided that our jeep needs two-wheel drive low range…

Happy Canyon Rim Trail

Since I was now on the direct northern side of the mesa, I figured making a nice full circle of the peak would be at least a good consolation prize. I was doing well, making my way up to Bible Camp Road and starting to swing south. Then I reached a point in the road where both forks were marked “Private Property, No Trespassing.” Being that I own a significant amount of land similarly signed, I weighed my options for a moment: I could “trespass” (although according to my map, this was a thru road), I could turn around and go home via Montrose, or I could backtrack the way I came. I had no intentions of going back the way I came as it was at least as long, if not longer. I didn’t really want to go to Montrose, I wanted to circle the peak by staying on the mesa. So through the signs I went.

Uncompahgre Plateau

Interestingly, there were never any signs marking that section as “private” coming the other way. Pleased with this development, I continued to follow the main road.

Wrong way. I should have followed Wildcat Road which would have taken me to Government Springs and hopefully Horsefly would have connected with County Road 22. Instead, I missed my turn and followed Sims Mesa Road. This road popped me back on Highway 550 just south of Montrose. My peak bagging adventure foiled AND my navigating off, I decided I was in need of some internet time (to research how to get to the top of Horsefly) and maybe some beer.

Victory of the day? Horsefly Brewing, their dog friendly patio, and their pale ale.

Sprocket Horsefly Brewing

Have you ever had an adventure just go awry? (Hopefully in a fun way like SP and I!) Ever had a goal trapped behind private property lines?

Meet the Lifted Scamp

As with most older Scamps, the original torsion axle was worn out leaving the poor trailer practically on the ground. Even with a new torsion axle it would only sit about 4″ higher. Fortunately, Forrest is a fabricator and was going make this a 4×4 Scamp anyways. So out came the torch!

Using a new 2000 pound leaf spring axle assembly, a new sub-frame assembly, and some matching Jeep wheels, Forrest drew up his plans. The result is really quite amazing: the Scamp sits over a foot higher and tows along behind the Jeep like a dream. Even over large rocks!

Without further ado, 3Up Adventures’ lifted Scamp:

Scamp Lift, Before & After

Sunday Sermon

“Do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am — a reluctant enthusiast… a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here.

So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space.

Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.”

 

 

 

 

-Ed Abbey