It’s days like this that put it all into perspective. I remember trudging through knee deep mud in New England, fording flooded rivers that threatened to sweep my legs out from under me and send me downstream. I remember hypothermia, the cold rain seeping into the cracks and seams of my rain gear and drenching me to my core. I remember having to hike faster to stay warm, wake up and get moving to stay alive. I remember being wet for day after day after day, throwing away a rotting pair of shoes that had never seen dryness. I ate soggy food with swollen hands, slept in wet clothes in a wet sleeping bag.
I remember the cold of Colorado, the wind, the snow. I would wake up in frozen darkness, my car blanketed with a foot of snow on all sides, no way to get a door open without the powder spilling inside. I watched the temperature gauge on my car drop to twenty below, realized the primary use for my engine was simply to keep me warm and alive. I will never forget the wind on Pikes Peak, my beard and mustache freezing, my nostrils and lips purple and blistered with the telltale signs of frostbite. I remember the dense fog blanketing Lincoln, Democrat, and Bross, navigating my way with no landmarks on an icy landscape with a map and compass. I’ll never forget that. I struggled through snowbanks and glissaded down mountainsides, snow penetrating every crack in my clothes, the cold making its way to my joints.
I remember fighting off the unrelenting winds in the Florida Keys in my kayak. I remember the sea threatening to capsize my small vessel between every stroke. I remember sitting in my boat in the darkness well before dawn, the lights of safety and home well behind me, and the scattered illumination of lightning battering the seas ahead of me. I remember giving up on my dream to paddle against the gulf stream across to The Bahamas, instead opting to ride with the towering swells to The Dry Tortugas. I’ll never forget that.
I remember racing down from 13,000 feet on the John Muir Trail, lightning raging on the mountains around us, hail bruising my scalp with every stride, and rain drenching me as temperatures plummeted. I remember my teeth chattering, shivering as I stood hiding from the hail under a pine tree’s branches, my muscles tensing up, my mind blasting myself for going on these adventures.
But I’m safe now. I’m surrounded by four walls and a roof and I am thrilled to be here. This is a sentiment not too often expressed on this blog but after 26 years I’ve come to realize that I need these moments to recharge the itch to get back out. I’m studying for an upcoming pathophysiology exam on Friday and couldn’t be more excited to be inside learning some super cool stuff.