A few days after graduation I took off on a trip out west, the goal was to visit National Parks, new and old to me, and relax before starting my new full-time job. I’ve been very busy recently and it’s taken me a long time to get this together, but in total we visited five National Parks, and hiked over 50 miles. It was a long trip that took me all the way to the northern coast of California along the Pacific Ocean for a night on the beach. We traveled almost 6,000 miles in 12 days, going from the central grasslands, through the Rockies, across Utah and the Mojave Desert before going up and over the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains to Yosemite and making our way to San Francisco before finishing our journey up the coast, it was a whirlwind of a trip.
All of that moving and revisiting old destinations got me thinking about the people I’ve led on trips and all the places I’ve gone to. I figured maybe I had traveled to a dozen places and taken maybe 50 or 60 different people on trips. So, when I got home from my journey to Arches, Zion, Death Valley, the PCT, San Francisco and The Redwoods I decided to do some counting and look at all of the trip sheets I had collected over the years. Most people would just throw away their trip contact forms, but in all my hoarding and obsessiveness in collecting cheap mementos, I’d saved almost every single one since the first trip I led to Red River Gorge almost 4 years ago.
When I looked back and counted, I found something that amazed and surprised me, I had taken 118+ people on 22 different trips to 18 different places, and those are just the ones I kept track of over the last few years. We had visited National Forests, Parks and wilderness areas across the country. We had gone canoeing in The Boundary Waters, we had snowshoed part of the way around Crater Lake, we had suffered in desert heat, we climbed the highest peaks on the continent and we played in the tallest sand dunes in North America. It was amazing to think about all the things I had done and all the people I had been able to share these adventures with.
I’ve learned so much from the people I've traveled with over the years and they've hopefully learned on journeys with me. They’ve shown me what it is to be a leader, what it takes to get people into your mindset, as well as how to encourage people to push onward in the face of adversity. On the other hand, I guess I taught them how to travel cheap, how to get places and do things that most of them probably never thought they’d be doing. I helped people become leaders of their own groups of friends and go on their own journeys. I guess learning was mutual.
As I stood atop Yosemite Point, halfway through our trip, and stared out into the Sierra Nevada Mountains, I thought about how far I had come. I thought about both on this journey (from Ohio, to Arches, to Zion, to Death Valley, over the Sierra Nevadas all the way up Yosemite Falls) and on all the ones before this. I thought about the places I had visited and all the people I had had the chance to share those experiences with. I also thought about the adventures still to come, the places I still want to go, and the stories left to be told.
Clara and I rounded out our journey along the Pacific Coast, enjoying a night in San Francisco, a night camping on the beach and a night by a fire with redwoods towering over us. We eventually found ourselves in the Salt Flats of Utah for one last night under the stars before finally making it back home to our real lives. A few days after getting back, we started our full-time jobs and life has been moving on ever since.
What my last trip taught me was that Clara and I won't kill each other when we travel together without others, she'll just get a little mad when I'm hiking too fast, especially up hill (sorry, can't help it, in my mind its just wavy...) This trip also reminded me and reaffirmed that I will forever be fueled by my travels, I will always long for the felling you get on an adventure, and I will always want to keep moving. Luckily, I get a ton of vacation time, so shouldn’t be a problem…. Until the next journey!