An Adventure of Adventures

I recently caught up with my family friend, John Mann, over a beer in Colorado Springs. He was asking me what’s new, as he always does. I always seem a bit of a mess, too restless to ever stop flitting from one activity to another. I told him how some things had all come to a head this last month, and he responded, “Sounds like you were running so fast, you got caught.” I could not have said it better myself.

Ryan likes to drive me crazy by saying ridiculous pithy statements. He’ll say something like, “What a time to have a time,” in a magnanimous dad voice, or, “Well, I guess it’s about that time we shut our eyes, don’t you think?” I think that despite my exasperation, I’m still slightly amused because these comments aren’t that rare for actual dads to say. As someone who has lots of “dad friends,” I hear these inane statements all the time. Even in my work, I review off-road trail submissions by dads across the country, writing the same practically meaningless comments. My favorite recently: “This trail is an adventure of adventures.”

My friend Zach is one of the gnarliest hikers I know. On a weekly basis, he gets out and will go for a 10-mile+ hike in a foot of snow, frigid temperatures, and up serious elevation gain. Sometimes these hikes have some real technicality to them, too — they’re practically mountaineering routes. His level of dedication to and stoke for these hikes impress me tremendously. As a trail runner, I don’t think I have the mental willpower to be walking for as long as he does. If I were to run any of his routes, I would surely be done much sooner and not stuck in my own head for nearly as long.

Zach’s hiking also exemplifies how much more consequential hiking in the West is. Growing up on the East Coast, I was never “scared” of hiking. What’s there to be scared of? A black bear? Some bugs? But out here, some hikes are a completely different ball game. There are some traverses and Class 3-5 hikes out here that I am not even willing to attempt. Every time I wake up at 3 a.m. to try a 14er, I am filled with mild trepidation. Sure, I’m physically capable of most hikes, but the sheer exposure and risk involved scares the heck out of me. Find me a trail in the Northeast that can do the same.

Back in January, Ryan went down a rabbit hole of IQ tests, concerned he was on the left side of the bell curve. “I’ve got to be at least average intelligence,” he asserted, opening a new link. I reassured him I was positive he was at least average, but likely above. It was cracking me up, his need to confirm. (He was in fact a slightly above-average IQ, for what that’s worth.)

A couple of weeks later, we were out snowshoeing with our friend Slade to his family’s remote cabin on Tomichi Pass. Slade, his friend India, and I were up ahead. I can’t remember how the topic came up, but Slade noted, “It’s insane how well Ryan remembers lyrics. Like, in the car, he was singing the words to that song from middle school — including all the rap lyrics — perfectly. And he said he hadn’t heard that song in a decade!” I laughed and agreed. His aptitude for picking up lyrics is kind of incredible. I proceeded to tell Slade and India that despite this capability, Ryan had gotten all concerned about having a low IQ just weeks earlier. It just goes to show you how many different forms of intelligence there are — there is no one-size-fits-all.

Once we were at the cabin and settled, drinking hot chocolate and warming by the wood burning stove, we got to chatting as a group. Slade posed a question: how many songs do you think you actually know? And by know, he meant, know 85% or more of the lyrics. Slade guessed 50 for himself.

“50?” I replied, incredulous. “It’s got to be way more than that, I think. I mean take a look at my Spotify. I have 4,000 Liked Songs. And those are just the songs I hit the heart button on — there are many, many other songs that I know that aren’t on that list. Even if I only know 10% of those songs, that’s 400 right there.”

Slade nodded, with a face that either said “good point” or “that’s ludicrous”; I couldn’t tell. I stand by my calculation, but I don’t think it works for Ryan. He probably knows many, many more.

I heard a while back on a podcast that almost everyone has a way of visualizing time. I had posed the question to my parents, and sure enough, each of us saw the calendar year in our heads a bit differently. The fact is, we all have visualizations unique to us.

My climbing friend, Casey, told me one a few weeks ago that I found pretty amusing and specific. We were on the bouldering floor working on some new problems, trying a V4/5 that consisted mostly of slopers (round, bulbous holds — think of trying to grip a basketball on the wall).

“Ugh, I hate slopers,” she lamented. “Every time I’m on the wall trying to hold them and start slipping off, I feel like I’m in one of those old-school cartoons. You know, that scenario where the character is in a water tank that is filling up to their neck and about to drown them?” I chuckled. No, I have never felt that way while trying to hold a sloper, but maybe now I will.

Another great visual metaphor I’ve been considering came from my friend, Eric. It’s been useful to reconcile fading friendships. In this new year, I’ve come to realize that each one of my friends fulfills a part of my life, but not all of them have to be very deep to be worthwhile. Yes, some friends are the ones you call at 2 a.m. in an emergency, but other friends are perfect for the calmer sides of life: the friend who you watch basketball with, the friend you go for a run with, the friend who’s down to try that new donut shop with you. All are equally valid.

The way Eric sees it, your life is your house, and you have friends that belong in only certain rooms. Some friends only are invited into the kitchen and dining room. Closer friends likely occupy the living room too. If you’re like most people, ultimately only one person will come into your bedroom. And some friends may be limited to the back patio.

All of these friends are welcome in a part of your house. But it depends on the person and relationship how much of the house you are willing to share.

You take for granted some things that people do for you when you’re a kid. I’ve talked about just how nice it is when someone prepares a meal for you, down to serving it on a plate and handing it over. It also is incredibly soothing when someone brushes your hair for you. The one I had forgotten until recently is the comfort of someone tying your shoes for you.

Ryan and I were doing a long hike through Bryce Canyon, slipping and sliding on 8 inches of snow that was rapidly melting. My shoelace came undone, and seeing me in gloves, Ryan ordered me to hold still while he tied my shoes. It reminded me of all the times my mom and dad would tie my shoes when I was a kid, and how it always felt like I’d never be able to secure them in place as tightly as them. They stayed tied the rest of the hike.

Problem-solving together is something that’s fallen to the wayside since the pandemic. With our remote jobs and limited interaction, I find myself collaborating with people less than I used to — and also realizing how much I miss it.

Prior to a two-week road trip, Ryan had ordered a camp kitchen set-up to go in the back of his Subaru. It has two sliding drawers with a built-in sink and a utensil drawer, so you can store your two-burner stove, cooking materials, and clean-up supplies. When it arrived, we knew we’d need to set aside time to put it together. What a joy it was. As we watched the tutorial video, I’d identify pieces, hold them in place, and he’d drill in the screws. We had a genuinely fun time learning how to build this thing, and we felt pretty proud of the end product. The drawer worked like a charm on the trip.

I felt similarly fulfilled on the last full day of the trip, while bouldering outside of Grand Junction. Ryan had found a V6 called “Roulette Dares” that he wanted to try. Though he’d watched a video of someone on it, I had no idea what the problem entailed. Over the course of an hour, though, the two of us were able to unlock the beta for the full problem together. We took turns trying different handholds and feet until we’d determined the exact order and placement of each hand and foot. When I ultimately sent the problem, it was a direct result of our team work, identifying each bit of it, as well as Ryan encouraging and instructing me as I climbed.

Both of these experiences were so satisfying because we worked together. Sure, it would be satisfying to personally accomplish both feats by yourself; but then who do you share that satisfaction with?

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