The spring semester begins for me next week, and for the past month I’ve been keeping busy with daily and weekly checklists of things I want to get done before I head back to teaching – everything from class prep to research projects to target workouts to mundane errands and appointments.
On Wednesday, I finished the last big thing on my list – a formal book proposal turning my academic dissertation into a published narrative history – and to celebrate, I declared yesterday a day of adventure.
First up – a 6:30 AM snowshoeing date with Laurie in the Wissahickon Gorge. Our 2-ish hours in the woods was more of a fast hike than a run, because my lungs weren’t having any of the biting cold (Brent’s perpetual advice: wear something over your mouth… it warms the air going in, and “it makes you feel like a bandit, which is pretty cool.”) But we had a blast bushwhacking from trail to trail, scaling boulders, crossing creeks, and sliding down small cliffs.
At 10:30 AM, after an unsuccessful attempt to warm up with piping hot oatmeal, I met my friend Val at the same trailhead, for a second round of snowshoeing. Our course was a little more tame, but just as much fun. There’s no better way to catch up with a friend than with a running or biking or hiking date.
I came home and crashed hard after nearly four hours in the snow, but by 7 PM, I was good to go, and Brent and I linked up with Laurie and her husband, Bill, for a night at the local rock gym.
It had been more than a year since any of us had been climbing, but over the two and a half hours we spent there, we shook off the rust and gradually made our way up and down the craggy walls – and I finally got the hang of belaying!
All in all, the perfect day. And I can’t remember the last time I was so excited to crawl into bed.
While Val and I were running around in the woods, we got to talking about past adventures. She recounted some of her experiences hiking the AT, and I recalled the trek Brent and I made up Mount Greylock a few weeks ago, where we’d forgotten half of our food and most of our water, and failed to stow any extra warm clothes in our packs.
“It ended up not being an issue,” I said, “but if anything had gone wrong, we could have been in trouble. It’s like the start of any outdoor survival story you read. I’m not sure we’ve ever been that ill-prepared for the treks we’ve done together.”
Brent and I recently went with friends to see the movie 127 Hours. As we were sitting around afterward talking about the film, Brent said, “These stories sometimes drive me crazy. I hate how the people who get the most attention for these things are the ones who are the most irresponsible. It’s always the guys who don’t bring the right gear, don’t have the proper training or experience, take unnecessary risks… Why do we glorify their stupidity? I guess the stories of people who do it safely just aren’t that interesting.”
We all agreed that Brent had a good point. Sure, these survivor tales that become award-winning movies and best-selling books are compelling, but should we really be lionizing the actions of people who put themselves in these situations by their own ill-preparedness, irresponsibility, or showboating? (Obviously, not all survival stories are about people like this, but when you start thinking about which stories make headlines, you realize that a lot of them fit this bill.)
Have you seen (or read) 127 Hours or movies (or books) like it? What do you think about publicizing these experiences?