Summer ’16 in Review

As the summer winds down and I do my best to return to my “lazy college student” mode, I wanted to take a minute or ten to reflect on this summer, and I hope yours was as good as mine.

This was my first summer as an explorer. Despite being a cold weather guy, as winter break came to a close I found myself eagerly awaiting the arrival of the summer. I had so many adventures planned, and while I wasn’t sure if they would all work out, I was excited for the very idea of them. I find it to be a simple fact of life that not everything you want to do works out, and naturally that was a part of this summer. I know I’ve said before that I wanted to go to Colorado; it was supposed to be my version of a graduation party from my regular, Marsh Creek-wandering days of adventuring to the real world of being an outdoorsman. For several reasons, that never worked out, and I was left to dream about the fantasy land that is Rocky Mountain National Park. But despite missing out on my big adventure, this summer, from an outdoors standpoint, was better than ever.

I kicked it off with a brief but scenic 9 mile hike along the Appalachian Trail, then followed it up with a more challenging one up Glen Onoko Falls. After that was Cape Cod, which isn’t a hiking trip but it’s still an adventure by every means and gave me some great, GoPro Award-winning photo-ops. Yes, I’m bragging. Two enjoyable hikes early had my hopes a little too high for the summer, forgetting that if I wanted to bring a car to school, I was going to need to be able to pay for gas. So my entire month of June was consumed essentially by work and nothing else, but long-term it will certainly be rewarding. Having a car means having the ability to go for hikes with the guys on the weekends during the school year.

At the end of June into July, I made my way to Minnesota for one of the best trips ever. Being able to see other parts of the country was a cool experience, but being able to go hiking and adventuring while we were there made it that much better. From Minnehaha Falls to the cliffs of Palisade head to cliff jumping in Saint Cloud, our trip to Minneapolis was one that I will never forget, and a place that I am eager to go back to.

Once we got back from Minnesota, it was back to work for me. But something big was looming, and I was getting more and more excited by the day.

Mount Washington was getting nearer and nearer, and I had difficulty containing my excitement, but with that came the need to prepare. Mount Washington is 6,288 feet tall—a bump in the road in the mountaineering world—but it’s the most prominent peak on the east coast and gaining over 4,000 feet of elevation in just a few miles is the furthest thing from an easy task. And so my workouts became more frequent and rigorous in the weeks leading up to the climb, and each one ended with a twelve-mile cardio bike ride. And then, finally, it was time to go.

We drove in through Vermont’s part of the White Mountains, and then in to New Hampshire, where Mount Washington’s peak eventually came in to view. Twelve hours later, it was 5 a.m. on the day of the hike, and the moment I had been longing for so long was there.

A few grueling hours later, I finally checked my first mountain off the list. While I hadn’t done it in Colorado, I had officially entered the world of serious hiking, and got my first little taste of elevation. I wish I was exaggerating here, but I’m not: it was the most painful and rigorous few hours of my life, not to mention the most tiring thing I’ve ever done, and I was absolutely hooked.

While climbing Mount Washington in the summer is no mountaineering feat, successfully taking the more difficult and technical route of the Lion’s Head trail certainly made it more of an achievement. All I can think about now is how with each day that goes by, the closer I get to climbing my next mountain.

Mount Washington was quickly followed by our next big summer adventure: the Cape Breton Highlands. 3 days of no cell phone service, hiking, and camping. It doesn’t get any better than that. For outdoors lovers, photographers, and wanderers alike, the Highlands are a must-see. As I described in my post “The Greatest Place You Could Ever Go,” it’s hard to find a more beautiful place on this planet. It was a great experience to spend a significant time outdoors, without showers but certainly with bugs, and with only one shirt because if you didn’t know I’m no rocket scientist and forgot to pack multiple shirts. But I’m sure I’ll be in more dire situations in my outdoors career. Six years of moose searching was finally quenched, and I got within 40-50 feet of a wild bald eagle.

And so, let’s recap. This summer I:

  • Climbed my first mountain
  • Won a GoPro Award
  • Was featured on the Instagram page of Eastern Mountain Sports
  • Went behind a waterfall in Minnesota
  • Stood on the edge of a one hundred foot cliff overlooking Lake Superior
  • Stood in Lake Superior and the Mississippi River
  • Saw a moose, eagle, and bobcat up close
  • Spent 3 days in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Yeah, it was a good summer. And now it’s over, but that just means it’s time for some new adventures. Once fall ball ends in September, the plan is to do some hiking with the boys in October and November, and then I’ll absolutely be doing some local winter hikes over winter break.

Long term, I’ll be looking at grad schools next summer (I know, I’m old), and most of them are out west. So let’s just say I’m already imagining long-term trips out west to visit grad schools, and I guess if I end up there I’d have to throw in some hikes. I couldn’t not. On top of that, there’s a part of me that really wants to get in to bouldering, so I might just have to look in to that. And why do I dream about this stuff? Because I love the outdoors. And I need it like I need oxygen: to live.

And there you have it, my long-term dreams that maybe, hopefully, will become a reality. Until then I’ll continue to take things one day at a time and see what adventure each day holds.

Aw, that was deep.

Hope all you students and teachers have a great year!

—D.G.

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