Where did the phrase first step is the hardest originate? I feel like it had to of been someone who was familiar with hard times and struggles yet hadn't really seen much of the world. I say this because it seems to me that someone who has traveled and experienced things away from their normal comfort areas would have a little different view of what a first step really is. As spring rolls into the mountains here in Wyoming I get the bug that so many outdoor enthusiasts can relate with! Where the sun finally remembers that its suppose to warm you, the breeze no longer bites, you smell rain and it seems like the color green is speaking a secret language only you and it understand and its telling you to not spend another minute inside a building! So as i deal with all these very difficult problems and search for that dream job that allows me to be outside for the rest of my life and never have to enter a building again except by choice i've been thinking also about all the first steps i've taken around this time of year over the past years. 6 years ago around this time i chose to pick up and spend a summer as a backpacking guide and take those first steps down a path that would bring me to where i'm at today. A 26 year old without a bachelors degree, having worked 16 different jobs in 6 years, lived in 5 different states, traveling around 8-9 thousand miles a year across the country, hiking anywhere from 500-1000 miles a year and meeting hundreds of new people on a yearly basis! These are my resume, my qualifications to speak on first steps. See i've had more first steps in my 26 years than a majority of people will have in their lifetime. Its not a brag, cause the Lord knows i did not choose the easy path and have had my fair share of second guessing but it has also taught me many life lessons that might have gone unlearned if i hadn't of picked this path and one of those is that the first step is not the hardest. Now a first step might be the scariest thing you ever do in your life but first steps whether on a trail or the path of life are usually in pursuit of a dream. Your desire and passion for that dream or goal is enough to overcome that initial fear of the first step. Knowing that at the end of this trail head is a peak with a view that will take your breathe away or knowing that this life path will lead me to a point of happiness and peace that i can only dream about right now can be a very powerful motivator. And that leads to the next lesson ive learned about first steps. You truly have no idea whats at the end or what you'll go through on the way to get there! From surprise snowstorms in the middle of the backcountry to unforeseen career directions i can at least attest to the fact that never once have i taken a first step knowing what i would run into along the chosen path. As i now am seeking that career choice i mentioned earlier i find myself nervous to even take my own advice. Its easy to forget where all my first steps have led and the lessons i never would have learned if they had not been taken. The mindset ive tried to adopt is that we all have to move forward in this life. Some will crawl, some will be carried but the lucky ones will stand and learn to take the first step on their own. I will always submit that the best way to get anywhere is by walking, so as you look at life and what its placing before you choose to take the first step. Whether its on a trail or down a life path that you've been nervous to embark upon just do what i've told hundreds of folks that ive led into the wild "lets just take it one step at a time and see where the trail will take us."
Wednesday, October 26, 2016
Over the past year I’ve been thinking more and more on words we use to describe the outdoors and also those of us who venture into them. Terms such as outdoorsman, rarified, frontiersman, mountain man. Substitute woman at the end of all these terms as well! But the one that has solicited the most hours of thought and consideration is the phrase “the wild”. Does it exist still? If so where can it be found? Is the 100 acre state park outside of fenton, michigan true wild? Or do I need to go west and delve into the almost 2 million acres of “The Bob” to be in the depths of the wild? I think that the only true way to know the answer is to wander into the heart of the wood or sit and visit with the peaks and see what their views have to say on the matter. So this article talks about what ive learned about the wild and from the wild in the years that I’ve spent in pursuit of it and why at the end of the day a life long goal in my life will always be to seek the wild.
August 1st, 2007. The first time I heard a mountain lion roar. More precisely heard what sounded like the final scream of a woman about to be killed in a 1950’s horror film and to a recently turned 17 year old it was the scariest thing I’d ever heard. I heard this sound of death while sleeping in a tent, surrounded by 7 other tents, in a campsite that was surrounded by other campsites. All in all there was a grand total of close to 50 people within a hundred yard radius of me and yet in that instant I felt completely alone. I think back on moments such as this that have transpired through my life where I have felt extremely alone and I find that most of them involve being in the outdoors. Standing alone in the deep backwoods of northern Michigan and realizing there’s no one within 20 miles of you. Or watching the sun rise on a peak in south western Colorado and looking down and seeing people starting their climb over 2500 feet down and 3 miles away. To sharing a evening on a alpine lake in Montana with a momma grizzly bear and her cubs. These all bring to light something I feel is key to finding a wild place and that is: it has to scare you a little bit! As I stated earlier I’ve been trying to define “the wild” now for over a year and a couple definitions I’ve come up with are “any place where nature can get the better of you at any given moment” and “the residence of any creature or creation that refuses to be tamed”. These 2 statements have something in common and that is that they reference the unknowns you encounter when you venture into the outdoors and what better thing to get scared about then the unknown! You can prepare all you want for anything from a weekend outing to a through hike of the PCT but I guarantee that something will happen to you that will be unexpected and that no amount of planning can account for and ya know what, that’s ok. Now don’t confuse what im saying here this isnt a “well luke said to just go backpacking without planning and that everything would be ok” no no no! Planning and preparing should always be key parts to every trip. One of my biggest pet peeves as a guide is people getting deep into the backcountry and realizing that they haven’t prepared enough. What I’m referring to is the moments that happen AFTER you’ve done your planning and preparing and your on the trail and then all of a sudden you find yourself in a whiteout snow storm or you find that a rattlesnake doesn’t want to share the trail with you. Moments that cant be controlled and that force you out of your comfort zone and make you have to think on your feet. If you ever find yourself in this kind of a situation to you I say “ WELCOME TO THE WILD!”
Now there are most definitely other characteristics of “the wild” such as “a place where only a handful of humans have ever been” or “where you find a calming peace mixed with a little fear, a dash of adventure and a hint of inspiration” and the list could go on and on. In a lot of ways “the wild” can be very relative to every individual but the one thing that I feel remains is that it challenges you, forcefully encourages you to step out of your comfort zone and at the end of the experience odds are you’ve probably learned something as well. If you were paying attention.
So to all my readers out there, as I try and remind you often if you follow me on social media “seek the wild” for it can be a ruthless friend, a merciless companion and a ferocious teacher but in the end “the wild” will give more to you than any friend, companion or teacher ever could.
Friday, September 23, 2016
Now im not saying that backpacking guides are the new firemen or doctors by any means but I’m beginning to think that we might be able to affect the amount of visits these outstanding additions to society will have from the general populace! Now I have a story that explains a little as to why I think this way. I had a gentleman one time who was choosing to be a very difficult individual and was really hindering not only his experience but also that of his sons and the rest of the groups. So after trying a few guide tricks to get this guy to calm down and relax and stop having a negative effect on the others in our group I finally got fed up. I had the whole group drop what they were doing and I just headed off into the woods and had them follow me. We went straight up the ridgeline behind our camp till we got to the top, right at about sunset and I had the whole group sit on a log and told them to just be silent and watch the sunset. After a few moments I stood up and began to tell them the power that the mountains hold in this world. I told them sometimes only things that have seen the beginning of time and have known creations perfect peace can guide one back to true inner peace. I told them that there is no better companion in life than the trail. It doesn’t care what your reasons for visiting are. It gladly waits and gives generously to those who seek it. It serves as confidant, counselor and ferocious teacher all at the same time. The trail overflows with discovery, breakthroughs and epiphanies not the least of which is the simple feeling…of freedom. (that last bit is a quote fyi not mine) I then went on to challenge them to let themselves be tested and tried by the wild! Because when as a individual were able to put aside our egos, platforms, and distractions and enter into the wild that has seen and overcome every problems its ever been faced with since God put it there, I believe then as a human we will have a great opportunity for personal growth! I told them not to waste this gift they’d been given to be hiking in what many call heaven on earth. I told this all to them with my back turned to the group and as I turned I was surprised to find this problem guy with a face full of tears. Come to find out later he was dealing with marriage issues back home before coming on this trip. Yet after that moment he began to take time to be alone in the woods and would seek out time with his son along the shore of some pristine lake. Truly taking time to notice the peacefulness that was surrounding him and draw from the strength and fortitude that only the mountains can give. Talking with him later on after that summer he credits the days after our talk to being why he was able to go home and have the courage and strength to handle and do things that he needed to do to save his marriage. Now this is just one of many stories I’ve had the chance to be a part of over my years of guiding and to be honest now I seek out those opportunities when they arise to just introduce people to the wild because its nothing I as an individual am doing, sometimes people just need a middle man between them and the hard truths the wild teaches us.
I’m sure out there in the world there is studies that have been done on what ive been rambling about by people much wiser and smarter than i. I just wanted to talk about it a little bit so that it might encourage you out into the outdoors, even as it gets colder! So encourage, drag, beg and do whatever it takes to get your friends AND even your enemies into the outdoors. Do your part in being the wilds middle man and women and help share the lessons that many of us have learned and that many will need to learn in the coming days!
Thanks as always for reading!
-Seek the Wild-
Sunday, August 28, 2016
As any good backpacker will do I love to watch how other people conduct their excursions into the outdoors. From their gear choices and how they utilize them to how they view the very outdoors their venturing into. Now this summer I have not only had the chance to see many a interesting piece of gear but also many an interesting outdoor enthusiast. Most notably a few rangers and volunteers who have dedicated over half of their lives to Glacier. One such ranger is a guy called Bruce. Bruce has lived in a cabin 6 miles from the nearest trailhead with his wife, who is also a ranger, from april to october every year for the past 7 years. Bruce has stories upon stories from a moose destroying a couple hundred pound fence to where he thinks Joe Cosley hid his million dollar ring. He also has a Tom Selleck mustache (that me and many others think is the key to his awesome rangering abilities) and the demeanor of a rugged old cowboy. Throughout the summer Bruce and his wife patrol and maintain over a hundred miles of trails and get to be surrounded by, in my opinion, the most beautiful parts of the park.
So what is the point of me telling you all of this besides making you jealous of our slightly less interesting lives compared to Bruce? I suppose its just as a little reminder to us all about the individuals who over the years have helped protect and preserve our great and many parks. See when I see men and women like Bruce and his wife I think of people like John Muir and Aldo Leopold. Individuals who dedicated their lives not to a job but to a set of ideals and beliefs that manifested themselves in the form of a park, Glacier National Park to be exact. In some of my future blogs I hope to talk about some of these ideals that the park was founded on and that it continues to follow when so many others have strayed.
So as you enjoy our beautiful parks and the 100 years of the parks service don’t forget the people like Bruce who have given much so that these precious and spectacular places will continue to be protected and preserved for a multitude of generations to come!
Monday, May 2, 2016
So I’ve shown you a problem and maybe those of you who know more about the inner workings of the mind know exactly what is the cause of this but I want to know how to fix it. What can I/we do to bring it back and revitalize our future generations? I use for an example of self-reliance my dad who developed through mere desire and determination the rare, always intricate and often artistic skill of woodworking. This along with many other different skilled trades has declined in proficient workers here over the past decade or so. Now your free to draw your own conclusions, this is America and your allowed to be wrong, but I feel that this lack of self-reliance may be at least one branch at the root of this decline. Even to think about something as small as canning, back in the day you can everything cause in the winter when you ran out of food you couldn’t just run to the store. Nowadays repurposing things is sort of a fad but once again back in the day everything had more than one purpose. What im trying to get at is as a generation we have had an excess of convenience which has led to us relying on our selves less and less. Our country was founded, explored and built by self-reliant men and women and I don’t think you need to much foresight to see that self-reliance will continue to be needed if as a country and as individuals if we plan on succeeding in the future.
Ok I got off on a tangent I apologize so now back to how being self-reliant is a skill backpackers and outdoorsmen & women should have. I meet more and more people who have trusted a GPS their whole exploring career and when asked to simply orient a map to north are unable to. Or their friends who know only one way to do something: finding north, building a fire, cooking a meal ect. A self reliant backpacker should be able to think outside the box when it comes to things like problem solving, buying gear and even new and improved ways of practicing LnT. Now I know when I say have skills in bushcraft, survival, hunting, foraging and what not the first thing that comes to many a mind is “oh hes talking about doomsday prepers that doesn’t apply to me and backpacking” but in actuality they really do. For those of you who have read about John Muir and don’t just quote him on occasion you’ll find that he along with many of the original outdoor enthusiasts who revitalized getting outdoors all possessed these very skills that we kind of scoff at today. Yet each of these and many others are skills found in a self-reliant outdoorsy individual.
So you’ve heard me rant and you’ve listened to me rave now let me make a request. Next time your faced with a challenge big or small, tackle it, wholeheartedly and to completion. And then the next time you have a great idea, tackle that, and make it happen rather than just letting it gather dust. Do more. Try more. Now when you do these you will also fail more but in the end even in failure you have taken one more step towards that true freedom, to be able to say to yourself “I choose to ask for help but I don’t need it”. I guess I should input here that I don’t at all think asking for help is a bad thing, I just think we do it to much. Challenge yourself, so that when you next face whatever challenge nature throws at you can say “I got this”
As always thanks for reading and feel free to leave comments or questions
Also i'm doing a bit of a survey so i'd like to know traits ors skills that come to your mind when you think of a self-reliant person? throw as many as come to mind into the comments below! thanks!
Hope to see you on the trail
Seek the wild
this was my office for writing this blog!
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
So I read recently a story about Lord Horatio Nelson and in this story he was standing on the quarterdeck of his ship during a storm without any kind of coat to shield him from the weather. Now when his midshipman came and tried to give him a slicker he refused saying "my love for queen and country keeps me warm enough". Now when i first read this i kind of chuckled thinking hes just saying that because hes this great war hero and he has an image to maintain but then i read and learned more about the man and what i learned was very interesting. At the end of my readings i came to the conclusion that Lord Nelson wasn't really full of it, i felt that he said this because of a deep burning passion towards his country and a all encompassing love of the sea. Because of these two things he truly felt a warmth when he had the chance to display his passion and love. Now before you lose interest and start thinking what does this have to do with the outdoors just hang in there its getting better i promise.
So this past weekend I had the chance to go camping in the Black Elk Wilderness of South Dakota which reminds one more of Emyn Muil from the Lord of the Rings than of a South Dakota landscape but this is where i ended up. Now going into this trip i knew 3 things: 1. it was going to be raining when i got there 2. that it was going to get very cold in the night and 3. that when temps reach a certain degree rain turns to snow. So needless to say i was a little hesitant to venture out but was determined to test my gear and maybe myself as well. So after a very long and cold night learning that hammocks might not be the best shelter in the cold i wake up just as it starts getting light out. Now in that moment as i peer outside my brain registers 2 things 1. that there's about an inch of beautiful snow and 2. that i'm no longer cold. Now this lasted for only a brief moment but in that moment i realized what Lord Nelson was speaking of. See very few things in my life have i been more passionate about than i have for the outdoors and its wandering. I have loved a ridge line framed by a sunset for just simply being there and sharing that beautiful view with me more than a good many people who have stepped in and out of my life. In the end it was this passion and love that decided to show up and warm my heart on that cold morning, reminding me that nothing beats doing what you love!
So I guess the point of this little snippet is to encourage you to seek out the "ridge line" that warms your heart, those vivacious excursions that prick your soul and make you feel more human and alive than any amount of likes on your social media page. Seek out the battle that each and every human wants and desires deep down, the battle that will tell one his or her true worth. The fight where the only challenger is the wild and the ref is God and His creation. Seek out the answers that can only be discovered in a valley with a river running through it or on by seeing whats on the other side of that peak. The original outdoors man said it best in Matthew 7:7 "Seek and ye shall find...". Get out there, warm your heart and seek the wild.
thanks for reading
"There's no better companion than the trail. It doesn't care what your reasons for visiting are. It gladly waits and gives generously to those who seek it. It can serve as confidant, counselor and ferocious teacher all at the same time. The trail overflows with discovery, breakthroughs and epiphanies not the least of which is the simple feeling of freedom"
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
This was a word that was described to me as a young man in church actually. It was used in reference to always walking with your head on a swivel, always turning your body to be able to see all that was around you. As i got older and started venturing into the outdoors more and more I found that this concept of walking circumspectly was one that i could also apply to my backpacking life! I began learning to trust my feet and bringing my gaze up from the ground to the scenic views around me. I also began noticing more safety hazards and potentially dangerous scenarios before they could materialize. I credit this new mindset for keeping me in the outdoors, when there were so many distractions and things that tempted my friends and I to not venture out, I was drawn back again and again because i had learned how to truly see the outdoors in its stunning entirety.
So for years i had the opportunity to sort of develope this viewing habit, knowing what sounds in the woods meant animal or human, noticing cloud patterns and the weather that tended to accompany them and how to analize campsites for potential hazzards and so on. These skills began to develope more and more and then one day i had the opportunity to begin to share them with others. At Philmont Scout Ranch, heaven on earth to many, you have thousands upon thousands of young men and women traveling through this beautiful landscape every summer. Yet when they get home and their moms would ask them what all they saw many would reply "well i saw timmys buff and joeys kelty, and dads keens". going through a whole week of trekking and only seeing the back of the person in front of them. It was here that i realized that so many of our youth don't know how to be aware of their surroundings. They don't know how to trust their feet and raise their gaze. I can t tell you how many times i have gone out and set up my broght colored hammock on the side of a popular trail on the weekend and sat there and watched as kid after kid walks right by without seeing me. how does this happen? They don't know how to walk quietly to be able to catch that elk crossing the trail or the bear eating berries. They arn't aware that in many regions the woods that they are hiking through could burn down within the next year or weeks and to enjoy the view, to soak it in cause they could be the last to see it in such splendor. They don't walk circumspectly.
So how do you make someone more aware? Do you stop them everytime you see something that they should have seen? Do you tell them to walk slower or to spread out more? Well as with so many things in the outdoors i let the woods and the mountains do most of the talking. My favorite plan of action is to keep my eyes out for a really great vista through the woods something you really only can catch just a glimpse of and i call everyone back to look at this view. Now i tell them that these little glimpses are the real gems of a hike, these are the views and moments that you'll truely remember. A moment you might not share with anyone else. A moment just for you. And then I encourage them to seek out these moments that the wild has many things to offer each and every person they just have to be looking for it!
So these are the things that I try and teach, this act of viewing deliberatly, on purpose if you will. I try an teach it to as many of the younger generation as i can and am writing this to hopefully encourage those of you with that indefatigable spirit of adventure that undying love for the outdoors to pass this simple lesson on when you get the chance. Lets teach the next generation how to be aware of their surroundings, how to look for the little things that make each and every hike unique and great! Lets teach them how to trust their feet and raise their gaze!
Thanks for reading
Seek the Wild