As mentioned, I have avoided setting any particular alpine goals this year. To be sure, summer dreams of rock climbing with with my wife as she recovers her strength and energy while the kids nap and play on the rocks certainly abound. I’ve floated the idea of a 20-mile Enchantments through hike/trail run to a few people. But nothing drives my training in the same way as past years.
Priorities are funny critters. I read stories of “average” people winning marathons or climbing seriously committing Himalayan peaks with a fascination. What sort of “day job” do they perform? How does their family feel? In short, how do they do it? It appears to require a certain dedication. The mom who wins a competitive marathon has the unbridled support of her husband/coach. The mountaineer expresses support for a family who understands why the Himalaya are so vital to happiness and fulfillment, despite months of absence.
I do not possess this single focus. I suppose that limits me to the lesser peaks, to lesser accomplishments. However, it also frees me to take some joy in otherwise competing interests.
Three point two miles from our house lies the base of Canfield Mountain. A ridge hike of about two miles leads 1800 vertical feet to an overlook of the surrounding cities. It will extract sweat from a hiker on the coldest of winter days, but it’s no mountaineering adventure.
Many past hobbies have tested the same resolve as mountaineering now does. I wanted desperately to catch salmon and steelhead with ease and yet lacked the resolve to commit the necessary hours to research and time on the water. With a degree of additional clarity provided through the lens of time, I see that my desire for bigger goals hampered my enjoyment of the time I did spend and the time I was free to dedicate elsewhere.
On Thursdays, lately, my wife and Little Bug encourage me to take a few hours with my friend to climb Canfield. We leave slightly before Little Bug’s bedtime (she says, adorably, “Daddy play Tra-bis”, explaining that I’m headed to do something fun with my friend and she doesn’t get to go). In the winter, this means hiking with headlamps; the eyes of the watching deer reflect out of the trees.
This winter, I’ve spent more time playing cars and blocks than I have training. The previous year, the same could be said about washing baby bottles. I find two changes occurring. First, when an opportunity to run or climb arises, it’s exciting. For my wife to support these activities means that she gives up something of her own time. It cannot reasonably happen as often as it used to. Second, I’m able to relax and just play – with no expectation of gains, goals, or achievements, just fun.
Despite its accessibility, conditions are not always easy for hiking. Two trips ago, we enjoyed windblown powder over an unevenly-frozen ice surface. Our evening hike proved downright challenging. Laughing at our situation, I observed, “it’s no first ascent, but it’s not bad for a Thursday night.”