Pause for Station Identification (and sanity)

9 10 2009

It has been a long week.  It’s not over yet.  Since I’ve been working at full speed around the clock for the past few days, today’s real post is going to have to wait until later today or tonight.

Since I feel really bad about that, here’s a moment of zen for you.  Gaze on the photograph. 

by joanarc4

by joanarc4

Imagine yourself stepping into the photograph.  Can you feel the summer heat?  Smell the pungent greenery?  Feel serene.  Feel calm.  Take a deep breath.

Now go about your day.  Remember, it’s a long weekend.  And I’ll be back later on to talk more about exactly what is going on in that photo and why you should go there.

And Now For Something Completely Different

7 10 2009

I was surfing the interwebs yesterday, looking for inspiration/information to write today’s post.  Usually, on Wednesdays, I have been posting about some particular type of equipment, and was trying to decide what to write about this week (tents?  backpacks?  water bottles?  GPS devices?) when I found this:

Now only $3.38!

Now only $3.38!

Moosejaw is an outdoor company (most shops in Michigan) with a sense of humor that almost exactly matches mine.  So much so that I wonder why I haven’t shopped with them before.  They have selection, knowledgeable commentary, users leave detailed product reviews, they price match, and they have an excellent return policy.  Plus, it seems that customer service is unparalleled.

Plus, Pipe Cleaner Animals are now on sale.

Stumbling across Moosejaw (where I will definitely become a customer, and let you know how that works out) reminded me of something important.  Outdoorsy people, especially casual outdoorsy people, tend not to take themselves (or anyone else) too seriously.  It’s this laid-back “it’s all good” attitude that calls to me when I’m wearing my corporate pants.*  So smile, enjoy Moosejaw’s website, the Madness, dream of crisp mountain air, and relax.

Now, get back to work.

*”Corporate pants” is a metaphor.  Like wearing a “hat” might mean you’re in a particular role, and when you change your “hat” you’ve changed your role.  It’s just that I think “pants” is a funnier word.  And image.  Although, come to think of it, I often wear pants to the office, and they are indeed corporate business wear, so…it works on multiple levels.

Can’t Is A Four-Letter Word

5 10 2009

470px-Henry_ford_1919I am looking for a lot of men with an infinite capacity to not know what can’t be done.

— Henry Ford

When I was a kid, teachers would often say: “Can’t is a four-letter word.” 

This never made any sense to me.  Of course “can’t” is a four-letter word.  Just count the letters, it’s obvious.  It just didn’t make any sense in context.  The statement always came up when I (or some other student) claimed they couldn’t do something like long division, spelling a long word, climbing the rope in gym class (okay, that last one was me).  It wasn’t until much later, when I figured out that “four-letter word” was another way of saying “swear word” that I got it: “can’t” is a dirty word, because by saying you can’t do something, you’ve assumed defeat.

The attitude factor of success is a well-known topic of inspirational speeches, articles, and self-help guides.  When researching this post, I was looking for some key quote from some key historical figure who accomplished some feat that the world said couldn’t be done.  There are a lot of them.  I chose the Henry Ford quote above because I thought it was funny, but history is replete with tales of crazy individuals who had some dream and were told by everyone that what they wanted to accomplish was impossible.  Without those crazy people who ignored the word “can’t,” we’d probably still be living in caves. 

In the end, your confidence that you can do something does not guarantee success (Amelia Earhart, how are you doing these days?).  However, your confidence that you can’t do something guarantees your failure.  Which brings me to the second Good Stuff principle:

Don’t Assume You Can’t Just Because You Never Have.

Last Monday, we talked about Rule #2 (Don’t Overestimate Your Abilities).  However, it’s important to remember that when realistically assessing your abilities, don’t limit yourself to things you’ve already done.  What you’ve already done can serve as a framework for what you’re comfortable taking on while hiking and camping solo, but it doesn’t have to be the outer boundaries.

Push yourself, just a little bit.  If last time you hiked four miles, when you see a five mile trail don’t assume you can’t handle it (you probably can).  If last time you only brought along ready-made food, don’t assume you can’t have a campside cookout (you can, and we’ll talk about food soon). 

If last time you hiked with a group, don’t assume you can’t do it alone.

Give yourself a little credit.  If you don’t, no one else will, either.

Living Deliberately

2 10 2009

by joanarc4

by joanarc4

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

— Henry David Thoreau, Walden

I have often found myself struggling to answer the question, “Why do you hike?”

It’s not because I want “get away.”  I’m a hyper-connected person.  I email, facebook, and twitter constantly.  I can hardly take the elevator from my computer down to get lunch without pulling out my phone to check messages that might have come in in the last thirty seconds.  When I hike, I’ll pull out the phone to snap a photo, and might even stop to upload it (hey, sometimes you need a quick break after a climb).  The notion of disconnecting sounds appealing, but this summer I spent a week on an isolated dude ranch in Montana (which was amazing, btw), and I will confess it was a challenge to be unable to get online or use my phone for that week, enough so that I considered taking the two mile walk to the main road to get some cell reception.

So that’s not it.

I like the activity of hiking…getting my heart rate up, working up a sweat, getting the endorphins flowing.  And I like that activity better than the same in a jog, or on an elliptical or doing a spinning class.

I like the air on a hike.  It’s better — cleaner — than the air in the city, or even in a town, where there are automobiles and houses and just…man-made stuff…all over the place.

I like the people I encounter when I hike.  They’re friendly, into the activity, but will say hello and observe the niceties of the trail (uphill has the right of way) better even than regular commuters respect the unspoken rules of commuting.

I like the beauty.  Hiking can get you to places of spectacular beauty that you just can’t find any other way.  Oh, fine, here’s one of my favorite hike photos of all time:

by joanarc4

by joanarc4

I like the sense of accomplishment, when, after a long hike, or a difficult climb, I can look back and say “I did that.  And I did it well.”

I like the quiet of nature when I find myself alone.  It gives me time to think in a way that I don’t always take the time to do.  I know myself better every time I solo hike.

And none of that really answers the question why.  Those are things I like about hiking.  The real answer, it seems, is this:

I hike because I like it.

It’s something I choose to do for me, for no one else.  It’s a deliberate choice to put something important to me, for however brief a time, above fulfilling work and home obligations, making time for others, and dealing with all the stuff that supports everyday life (laundry, dishes, paying bills, etc.).  It’s deliberate, and because of that, it adds that intangible something to my life.  It’s me choosing a way in which I want to live my life.

So that, when I come to die, I will not discover that I have not lived.

Why do you hike?