A Light in the Darkness

I won’t call it a bad day because it was anything but that, but it was cloudy for a bit. My day started off well and easy. I made breakfast for my grandma who isn’t as independent as she used to be and it was good. Then plans changed and the day didn’t go as smoothly as I would have liked and I got delayed more and now was running into rush hour traffic in Indianapolis and was only supposed to arrive at my destination 9 minutes before they closed. Any time I gained by pushing my chances to get pulled over for speeding I would loose to some traffic bottle neck. I was stressed about wasting half a day for nothing and the fuel for the trip. Nothing big but I take pride in getting stuff done in a timely manner. I was getting fed up with traffic too on top of it. Luckily, I made it to my destination in time and was able to get my task done. Google Maps said my return trip was delayed 26+ minutes for an accident so I opted for the scenic route which only added another 17 minutes but was alot less stressful. On the way back I was passing all this Indiana farm country which I really do love and found it sad to see every wetland drained for a field which has a massive house on about 2 acres of yard with maybe a garage for an out building and no animals. I really wish they would just move to a small town and leave the country to those who want to be a part of the land. A darkness was approaching me, and than I saw on facebook a post that reminded that me a few years back a friend had lost to the darkness. I’ve been blessed beyond measure in so many ways and all of them have helped me become a very happy and fulfilled person. That not to say there hasn’t been times that have been darker than others but, I found my happiness in the natural world, the dangerous wild places, the challenges physically and mentally, and I have found good food, with good friends and family helps to round it out. I am one of the lucky ones.

I remember talking to my friend once in awhile about all the amazing things I was discovering and how awesome it was in Wyoming. He would complain about work and I would invite him out west. I could sense he liked the sound of it and was sure he would be happier out here. He would say “I wish I could but I can’t”. I never understood until after I found out those conversations would never take place again what he was saying. It struck me as odd that someone would say they cant chase what they seemed to want for themselves, and which brought me such joy. I’ve been lucky to have not lost anyone super close to me yet (my time will come) but this loss struck me more because I really do want the best for others and I feel like this loss was supposed to tell me something.

I’m still understanding it more all the time. I’ve realized when I myself have had a darkness come over me that I can’t shake, to feel lonely, to feel hopeless. For me, they have all been fleeting moments, it seems. Since I’ve moved West, I have found more and more how much I love the mountains, the fields, the challenges, the danger, the hard work, learning new skills, paying attention, being disconnected from the modern world, the animals, being present, the sunrises, and on and on.

I’ve also come to find out things that make me better, and it’s a shame to not share that with others. Today while I was driving back I reflected on how much the hustle and bustle of the city life feels to suffocate me, how the phone seems to distract me from what makes life better, how much life can make us feel forsaken. And it struck me when I read the post on his girlfriends facebook that could have been me, and that he could have found the same joy I did I those open spaces that we are in danger of loosing to modern development, the wild animals are loosing habitat to that. I felt today more than ever that there are people that need to see the awesomeness in the world because it will be not just a candle in the dark but the very sunrise that so many of us never take the time out of our busy modern life to see. So stop and take some time to watch a sunrise.

The drive on country back roads and the thoughts I had brought me back into the sunshine…I will work towards sharing this sunrise with others! Now go see the damn sunrise instead of looking at Facebook.

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Adventure is worthwhile – Aesop

I get overly excited about adventures. I’ll be the first to admit that. When I moved to Wyoming in 2012, I felt that barely anyone understood why I had to move. It was a bold move and I can understand why someone who cared for me would be nervous for me. I had to make the move and I was excited as hell to take the path less traveled.

In 2014 I left a good job to go fight wildfires. It was so worth it and it ignited a passion for working outdoors in me, that was just itching to come out. Than the season ended and I got a job in the oil field making big money but, that tanked after the hiring cycle for fire and I was looking at going to school. I had a dream of a job that was hard but rewarding, one that I loved and didn’t really need a vacation from, and that job was in the mountains. I’m still trying to lock it down exactly what that is but its narrowed throughout the years and I’m moving in that direction.

When I do get free time I want more adventure. Sometimes I fail myself when I don’t have someone to join me on that adventure. It makes sense because adventure is better with friends and builds better friendships. This year I went out on a limb…a big limb, and I couldn’t be more excited. I’ve watched Youtube videos or others trips, talked to friends, looked at what I will need for this trip. I’m doing a 7 day solo canoe trip in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota. My longest, my first overnight solo, my first multiday trip isn’t something to be taken lightly.

This picture is of Wyoming not MN. I know but I haven’t taken a MN pic yet.

 

I’m all excited and want to share this with people. A woman in the outdoors industry asked me to hang out and she has similar passions to me, and I’m worried I’m blowing my best chance at networking for my dream job because I’m too excited. I feel like very few understand my excitement for this trip except for a handful of my friends. I feel like getting excited about this drives people away. I kind of don’t care tho. I’m excited for the adventure, I’m excited to meet new and interesting people(not boring ones), I’m excited to challenge myself with planning this solo adventure food, gear, everything but the canoe.

I can’t stand the idea of a boring life with a 9-5 job that I’m not excited about deep down inside. The idea of just going to the bar and getting drunk and doing the same miserable thing every day sickens me. I want that fire in my soul to be burning like an inferno. I want life to be so full of adventure, experiences, grizzlies, pack strings stories, hunts, good friends, etc. that when I finally get old I can be a role model for my nieces and nephew and maybe my own kids(if I have any). I want people to look at my life and say that that was a life worth living and it was lived well. It won’t be perfect…but it will be worth it.

It’s biblical, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you” ( Genesis 12:1), when God called Abraham, it wasn’t to sit around in your parents basement, like the 30 year olds of today. It was to go out into the world and forge a path, to seek adventure, challenges, and uncomfortable zones. Do you think our ancestors were successful because they were timid, scared, boring, took the lazy way thru life, didn’t want to work, or asked for a universal basic income? No, they got up at the crack of dawn and forged their life despite whatever adversity they had to overcome. We are biologically engineered to get off our duff and get shit done!

As Lawrence of Arabia said “All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did.” I just found this quote today and it’s inspiring…..make your dreams possible…your deepest wildest dreams. Chase them to the stars, or to the mountains if you are like me….and for heavens sake fight for them with all you got because it’s worthwhile!

It Warms You Three Times

When I was little I always loved the fire. You could call me a borderline pyro. Destroying things with fire wasn’t what appealed to me. I remember wanting to always start the burn pit, always have a bonfire, always light the fireplace, wanting to play checkers at Cracker Barrel on Sunday’s after church just to be by the massive fire place. I wanted to be by the fire and feeding it, and I still do.

They say firewood warms you once when you cut it, once when you split it, and once when you burn it. This is true but there is more to the story. I learned to use a chainsaw in high school. I felt my dad was overly cautious about it but, it’s a chainsaw so you should be prudent. I always loved the wood stove that my parents had got shortly before I left for the Navy. I loved helping gather firewood. The smell of two stroke fuel, the freshly cut sawdust chips flying from the saw as it cut thru the oak. The sweat, the leather gloves getting torn up. A couple years after I moved to Wyoming, I did a stint with a wildfire engine crew. I got taught how to properly run and take care of a saw. I also was taught always sharpen and fuel it, so its always ready to run when you are done. Now days, I sharpen my own saw after collecting firewood with a good beer. It just seems like the perfect way to end sawing. I take pride in taking care of my saw after I use it. I might work up a sweat felling, limbing, and loading it into the truck but it also warms my soul to put away the saw in good order.

When I was younger my brother was always telling my dad to get a hydraulic splitter. And on oak it makes a massive difference especially when it comes to starting the big rounds. I like doing it the old fashion way with wedges and a maul. When ever he brought it up I’d keep my mouth shut. Really what I wanted was my Papa to get a set of really nice tools with nice hickory wood handles. I loved the sound of a good hit, getting better at putting that maul where I wanted it, and that if I was angry it would calm me down. When I did the stint in wildfire I found an old axe head, and bought very nice new forged axe of good steel, not the cheap hardware store kind. And I hung that old axe on a new handle, I sharpened it and cleaned up the head. I had discovered a lingering passion that was just waiting to emerge. That old head soon became my favorite. The new one cut better and was sharper. But the old one split pine better and I didn’t feel bad about it bouncing around in the tool box. I lived in a wall tent for a few months and that axe became my friend. It’s what I used to split my own firewood. I found that the mountains and splitting that firewood ignited a fire in my soul.

The wood stove is the third source of warming. I remember there were many night sitting by that stove that I got so hot that I’d go upstairs and get a bowl of ice cream. But what I really liked about living in the wall tent was breakfast. Waking up and stoking the fire, getting the coffee pot brewing, and cooking with a cast iron skillet on that too small for one guy in a 14’x16′ wall tent. Being cold and waking up every couple hours on those cold nights to stoke the fire didn’t bother me. Maybe it was because I was feeding the fire in my soul too. Maybe it was that I had gathered and split the very wood that I was using to sustain my life. Maybe it was something ingrained in my DNA. I don’t know exactly what it was but I do know that I will want a wood stove for the rest of my life.

They are wrong firewood doesn’t just warm you thrice. It makes you a better person dare I say every man should do it atleast once in his life. The time away from cell service, the time working with tools and your muscles, the skills developed, the fresh mountain air, the sense of accomplishment, and even smells of it all warm me inside and make me better at being a human and a man. I don’t ever want to live in a place that doesn’t have wood heat.

The Mountains Make Me a Better Man.

I failed myself.

After a summer with no wifi, in which I read 17 books, worked out daily, collected 20 mule deer shed antlers, and hiked a few times a week, and even journaled a bit, I felt that I was on top of my game making myself better and more disciplined. I followed that up with a fall working for an outfitter as a wrangler. I truly enjoy being there. I would wake up at 2am to go gather the horses with only the moonlight or starlight to guide me, than id push them back out to pasture at sunrise. I had to trust the horse and learned to gallop in the dark. One week I had help. The wood stove in the little 12’x12, wall tent would drive you out. Id wake up sweating and have to get dressed for frigid nights on horseback. I learned to leave the tent way over dressed for how cold I thought it was because the hour or two on horseback would change your mind until you started galloping. We got up that first morning that week and I commented on how cold it as, my partner replied with his thick Uruguay accent, “It’s not that cold”. After two hours of unsuccessfully searching for the horses, my beard was frozen and Max was the, “coldest I have ever been.” I felt great when I took a job at a lodge for the winter in those same mountains that I loved.

Here is the failure. I started the job and stopped focusing on making myself better, and instead started hanging out and drinking with my coworkers because it was fun. Which meant I was missing out on sleep because I still had to get up and work. Work wasnt just some desk job. I was shoveling snow and tossing firewood around pretty much all day. I was burning so many calories that I couldn’t eat enough in the three meals provided and was starting to have issues. I was slipping.

I realized it and caught myself. I ordered a meal replacement shake mix to have as a quick thing to get more protein and nutrients in my system and picked up snacks and made a point to eat better. Went back to going to bed at a reasonable time and spending less time and money drinking. Started back at working on my photography skills which have vastly improved. Started a morning work out routine, got my good coffee in and a hand grinder for it. I’m happier now.

The Mountains make me better tho, but how? Well for one I spend less time on my phone which is good. I am also much more physically active, shoveling snow builds shoulder muscles. I do things with purpose, and accomplish goals. I enjoy the world and company better. I read and listen more. I take time in the morning to do what I want to start my day off right.

I wake at 6am and do a small body weight work out and drink a glass of water while the coffee is brewing. Coffee from a great micro roaster that i have ground by hand. I make my bed in the morning and brush my teeth. Than at 7am is breakfast. The day has been good and I’ve done things and it is good. I feel good about that. Sadly the business and snow has been slow so I still spend more time on my phone that I should. And when I get bored and am not accomplishing things or enjoying the mountains I get needy and surf the phone. But back to evenings. I light the fire, shower, have a beer, go to dinner, and come back and edit pictures or read.

The Mountains allow me to be more focused on what I want my life to be. I’m less distracted by the world and work more on being a little better every day. It’s ingrained in my DNA

Creating Value for the Outdoorsman

I feel compelled to share my experiences, lessons learned, gear that works, and what drives me. I moved out west in 2012 and have been learning many things about the outdoors that are hard to find with a Google search. Trying to find a blue print of what to get is really wading thru a series of ads and finding something worthwhile or searching through forums where there is more bickering than information.

The goal of this will be to provide insight into the world that I am immersing myself in. I have worked in Agriculture, reclamation, oil, wildfire, construction, fencing, wildlife, outfitting, and horseback guiding. I’ve learn an immense amount of information that has pushed me to learn more and be in the mountains more. I am pursuing a life where I am engaged with the land that has called me since I went to Yellowstone National Park with the family when I was little. I wasn’t even in high school and had the audacity to tell my mother “One day I will have a place out here”. I sold my dream car, a 2006 Mustang GT, and moved out west in a 94 F-150. If it didn’t fit in the truck it didn’t come with me. Everyone thought I was crazy! I didn’t have a job, a place to stay, or know a single person here. Six years later I’m still here and loving it.