All I wanted was a beer. Sit down in camp, prop my aching legs up by a fire and sip a cold one. Nah, there was still too much out there to explore so off we went again.
Let me back track a little.
In the summer of 2003 we (my wife, son and I) had just returned from an attempt to hike to Granite Park Chalet in Glacier National Park. It was a spur of the moment decision we made while looking at one of the park maps and one of the extremely few times we were not overly prepared. We took the loop trail planning on a couple mile hike to the Chalet and figured the little food and water we had would be sufficient. Bad juju right there. Never go hiking without ample energy and water sources. Never. Like I said this was way out of character for us.
Well our simple little hike pretty much turned into the Bataan Death march. The map we were using was a basic park map. No mileages or elevation on it. Our guesstimate of the length was WRONG. Turns out it was a four mile hike and not a "couple".... The trail was decent but it also had an elevation gain of 2300 FEET.... I should note that a lot of this hike is on the west face of the mountain so the 90 degree + heat was beating on us pretty good. Yes, it gets hot in the mountains too.
We hiked for about three hours and came to a long steep climb. This was after a couple heartbreaking "it's just over the next rise" or "It's just around the bend" conversations over the last hour. We were broken and we turned around. Tired, thirsty, hungry I put my son my shoulders and we hiked back.
Life Lesson #1:
You may have done that six mile hike a couple weeks ago but don't be fooled into thinking that you can skate by without proper planning or knowledge of what your getting yourself into this time. This applies to hiking, road trips, career changes and starting up a business. A little planning will save you a lot of heartache and frustration.
Life Lesson #2
: We were pretty much out of water, dog tired and our attitudes were in the toilet when we came to that long steep climb. My gut told me that the Chalet was really just over the ridge about a half mile away. After some research a few years ago I discovered I was right. When things seem to be at their absolute worst is when a break through is likely to occur. You just have to keep pushing. Give that extra 10% and you'll find success. I've read it countless times and experienced it in my life repeatedly. "Can life suck any more than it does???" then BOOYA! your through the difficulty. We were a 1/2 mile from accomplishing our goal.... Still doesn't sit well with me to this day.
So now we're back to camp
and the chair with an icy cooler chilled brew is calling my name for a little rest after the days adventure. We were in Fish Creek campground which we'd never stayed in before and after about two minutes of sitting we decided to walk the trail along the lake. Lounging is really not a vacation to us. We use every valuable minute to explore and discover new things. Go Go Go pretty much sums up vacations for us so off we went.
Nice trail, no lung burning, quad exploding and make me cry for momma hills to climb on this one. We'd walked about a quarter mile and we're lolly gagging looking at the lake, exclaiming our profound love for the beauty that is Glacier. We came up over a rise in the trail, my son was about four feet in front of me, my wife was behind me and off to the left in the grass no more than ten feet away was the biggest black bear I'd ever seen. By the time I tell this story to my great grand kids it will be the size of a minivan I'm sure. I've come across black bear a lot in my life. Numerous occasions in the BWCA in MN, nortthern Idaho, etc.... I was no stranger to them and really didn't fear encountering them like say a Grizzly or Kodiak.
Here again ( Rope Swings and Lessons Learned
) is where the immense computational power of the brain kicks in when combined with a healthy dose of instinct and adrenalin. In true Matrix movie style everything went into a surreal slow motion effect. What I next relate occurred in that infamous two second span which feels like forever.
The bear stopped eating and looked at us.
First thought: "Holy Crap that is the biggest freaking bear I've ever seen!" Second thought: "Holy Crap my family is with me and I'm going to watch them get killed." the bear was that big. If ever there was a motivating factor in life it's the fear of harm coming to your loved ones. I gently reached forward and pulled my son behind me, pushing him to my wife, whispering "turn around and go" in machine gun style. You know, gogogogogogogogo.
It was at this point she saw the bear and her motherly instincts took over. She swooped up our son and was gone. She slowly backed down the hill and then vanished. Quantum physics be damned, this was alien technology, that woman could move. I stayed right where I was watching the bear thinking, no praying probably, that I would be his target and not my wife and son. I knew that they were down the little hill out of sight and wouldn't trigger a kill response by their running so me being in the way would give them time to escape. Family is now safe, check! "Your time to die Bill....and holy hell getting mauled is going to hurt."
Ever hear a freight train in a tunnel? It's deafening. That's what my brain was sounding like or maybe it was from the sheer volume of blood my heart was pumping at that moment. Entering seconds 3-5 in this "time stands still matrix moment" the bear looked at me with his mouth full of grass. His fur was quite possibly the thickest most lustrous coat I'd ever seen on a bear. He was beautiful I thought as he stared at me. I stood there and shook, hell yes I was scared at this point. I'm not to macho to admit that if he charges me I instantly soil myself. Instantly... He went back to eating grass. Yep, gave me a "nothing to see here now move along human" look, so I did.
<cut to open letter to the bears of this world>
Thank you Mr. Bear,
Thanks for not eating me and my family. I can assure you Mr. Bear that a simple act of kindness like that is appreciated. I will never hunt bear in repayment for not treating me like beef jerky, you know that whole gnawing and tearing thing? Yeah, most appreciated.
I slowly backed down the hill and once convinced I was not going to be bear bait I turned and ran. The term "run like the wind" was redefined by me personally at that moment. I caught up to my wife, relieved her of my son and we ran all the way back to the trail head. Our 20 minute walk up the trail was reduced to a three minute sprint. Now remember, all this came after our 7 mile round trip aborted hike to Granite Chalet. When I say we get the most out of our day I meant it.
Anyways, we both decided that a couple beers may not be enough so we headed into West Glacier for some supplies. Notably a twelve pack of Moose Drool. So after a stop at the campground entrance on our way out to notify the rangers, who I might add giggled at our adrenalin fueled recount of what just happened, we finally sat down and had a beer. (or three. we damn well earned it wouldn't you say?)
So Bill, "what the heck is the point of this one"
your asking yourself by now. Well never one to hold back I'll tell you. Imminent death or the fear of it causes you to look hard in the mirror. I know it's so cliche but when you've looked death in the face (this was not my first brush with ol Mr. Reaper) you realize that life is fleeting and can be taken in an instant. I know I've taken it for granted. As a direct result of this experience I took steps to seriously improve my life. Steps that ultimately led me to where I am today seven years later.
I threw caution to the wind when I was approached to partner with a guy in a web hosting/network services company and moved 350 miles east to Montana. That didn't quite work out but that's another blog post for another time. The bottom line is take action. Don't wait for a near death experience. They really aren't that fun for the most part. What is it you really want/need to do before you die? Do it dammit. What are you waiting for? That bear may be hungry next time and POOF! Those excuses like next time, tomorrow, later, another day, when I'm ready, when the time is right, when I'm in a better situation have killed you.
Do me a favor.
See if you see yourself in this amazing post by Elizabeth Potts Weinstein. The Live Your Truth Manifesto
I found this after I'd made another decision to cheat the bear and yes I saw huge chunks of my lifetime in that post. I read it three times a week now for inspiration and to keep me focused. I believe you'll scream BS in the bears face after reading that.