In the Footsteps of Greatness - Introduction (Excerpt)
January 13, 2014
For those who haven't heard, I'm in the process of writing a book about my John Muir Trail adventure. It was a fantastic physical, mental and emotional test and so far I've really enjoyed the process of integrating the experience and then putting the story into words. My plan is to post an excerpt of my book every week so that anyone who is interested can share in this process with me. Thanks for stopping by!
I suppose this adventure should start where any good story does – the beginning. I first laced up my hiking boots at the tender age of seven, and in looking back its amazing my dad had the audacity to suggest it and that my mom actually acquiesced. Regardless of the serendipitous circumstances that got me there, that first trip in a very real way set the tone for the rest of my life. My belief in myself and my athletic ability. The deep peace and connection I feel when surrounded by streams and forests. The smoldering fire that pushes me to test my limits and to find new challenges against which to throw my will and spirit. And perhaps most of all, the beginnings of a question that I’ve been compelled to answer again and again… Do I have what it takes?
I only have fleeting memories of this first backpacking trip. Twelve grueling miles in from Lake Victoria (Mammoth, CA), up over Duck Pass, and down into the secluded and verdant Cascade Valley. I remember being awed by my dad’s Herculean strength, Eagle scout skills, and lean, muscular physique – and desperately wanting to be like him someday. I remember catching trout by the dozens using ladybugs as bait, and cooking them in garlic and wild onions. I remember being horrified and fascinated as my uncle’s best friend regaled us with stories of his sexual escapades, and being proud that I was considered man enough to be included. I remember drinking coffee for the first time and wondering why anyone would voluntary consume it as I choked down its scalding bitterness. Ghost stories, crazy chipmunks, dreams of Quarter Pounders with fries, and one lost retainer – its funny what I remember.
But I don’t remember the altitude sickness, or my dad taking my pack and strapping it onto his because it was too much for me to handle. I don’t remember being homesick, or tired. The blisters or the hunger. It’s funny what I remember, but also fascinating what I don’t. Particularly because it is the pain that shapes us. Somehow because it’s so visceral it is also more poignant. And even though I don’t have a conscious memory of the challenges I faced on this trip so long ago, on some deep level they began forging me into the man I am today – both in my need to push myself as well as to explore the boundaries I find along the way.