No matter what is going on in my life or yours, I guarantee you that it is all easier when you wake up in a tent in the Rockies. Whether it’s financial woes, relationships, the meaning of life, or the C.I.A. after all those secrets in your head, being in the outdoors won’t solve your problems but somehow standing on a mountain side amongst the flowers of the alpine tundra looking down at a clouds rolling through the valley bellow puts things in perspective. The world is large, and it is small. Your life is the same, and the problems in it are even smaller, and only large when you let them be so.
While doing trail maintenance, construction and alpine restoration there are a few things in particular that seem to help this radical acceptance along that I would definitely advise everyone trying their hand at.
Swinging big tools.
I know, I know… burly mountain man telling people that swinging tools is therapeutic. Well regardless of your size, extracurricular activities, or physical fitness get back to me after you have taken a couple swings into a rock with a 8 pound block of metal at the end of a stick (sledge hammer). We are all weird fleshy balls (more or less) filled with energy and most of us could do to expend some of it in a productive way.
On a similar note, build something!
Be in a rock staircase on a mountain or a bird house in your backyard; with all of the abstract elements of your life on this world it’s really satisfying to stand back and look at something tangible and say “I did that, it was hard!” You know it was because at the end of a day or week your muscles and joints act as evidence, everyone one of them terribly sore. Aching in a sweet way that just screams accomplishment.
This one is obvious: Wildlife sightings and observations.
I think its important to note first that wild animals do not exist for our entertainment and should not be treated like such. Now that I’ve gotten that out, seeing in animals in the wild is and will always be incredibly awesome. Take a moment to just sit and watch. No, actually take an hour if it doesn’t run off. The summit can wait it will still be there when you are long gone, but this moment is now, and it’s fleeting. Watch what that Pika is doing. How its hair bristles in the wind. Listen to its meep. Speculate on what the heck it’s trying to convey. Why it’s going where it’s going or just following it with your gaze in unquestioning awe and silence. Investigate later if you desire on their behavior and habits (it’s really rad!) or don’t. Either way, take the time. You won’t regret it.
In 2011 during my first week of trail work ever on Mt Yale, I was on a quick bathroom break (only #1 above tree line of course) and in mid-stream a Marmot came up and started drinking my pee. That is some hysterical beautiful insanity. I’ve named all Marmots “Bobby” (story for another time).
Find common ground, tell your story, listen to someone else’s
Be it on a trail project (with other employees or volunteers) or hiking. Everyone out here has one thing in common. They are outside challenging themselves most likely and soaking it all in. Everyone has a different story, some are in the midst of a strange or unexpected adventure and what differences you might have don’t seem so huge when discovered in a natural context.
I don’t necessarily meditate in the strictest definition of the word but just aimlessly wandering in the outdoors without a destination or just sitting amidst the pines especially if you have no buddies with you or even a mutually agreed upon silence is one hell of an experience. Great as the city (or a town) can be, our world provides us with so many things to distract ourselves from ourselves. Sit and get to know the landscape and you will get to know yourself. Sometimes it can be a bit uncomfortable but you will come out better for it, I promise.
These are some of the many reasons why I live here, and why I do this work. These mountains and forests have provided me with these experiences and sensations. That is why I work to protect them and to provide a sustainable space and trail for others to experience them as well.
I swear I’m not prompted by anyone at CFI to sell you all on volunteering, but you should. Come out and share this with me or one of my co-workers here. You won’t regret it. If not, then at least do yourself a favor and make time for some fresh air or time to get your hands dirty. The only stipulation is that I ask you to do it consciously, do some research about where you are going, Leave No Trace, and remember that especially in busy places like the 14ers every small impact adds up.
– – – MountainMan/CityBoy Out! – – –
CFI would like to thank Colorado Parks and Wildlife “State Trails Program” for funding our Adopt-a-Peak projects in 2016.