Saturday, April 3, 2010


In the final days of preparation for my first outdoor climbing trip, I’m spending my time thinking about things I’d never thought I care about. Today, I stood in the outdoor section at a local store, wondering if I needed to buy a snakebite kit. And I’m not talking about Tabasco, tequila, and whiskey in a shot glass. In the end, I decided not to buy the kit – I’ll take my chances – but there’s a part of me that wants one. It’s an Indiana Jones sort of thing, proof you’re one of those people who goes out seeking adventure, but not actually seeking snakes.

I did get batteries for my headlamp, round up a tent, and put together the sort of wilderness first aid kit worthy of a Boy Scout merit badge. It’s not the sort of kit that anticipates major injuries, but it’s pretty spiffy. Scrapes, splinters, bug bites, hangovers, allergies, sunburn, and inflammation don’t stand a chance against yours truly.

I’ve assembled a wardrobe I think will suffice for a weekend trip, layers of wicking inner and outer layers, a technical coat and intermediate fleece, and some not-so-fashionable headgear. I’m borrowing a sleeping bag and pad this trip, but both are on my list of “someday” purchases. Because this trip is a “car camping” sort of excursion, I’m not worrying about a backpack. That too, I think, will have to wait until the fall when they go on sale.

My nutritional needs for the trip are proving more difficult to anticipate and prepare for, but I’m working on it. I’ve got a recipe for breakfast/energy bars in the works, one that is low-fat but high in protein and carbohydrates to aid in muscle recovery after a day of climbing and mucking about. Nuts and legumes are on the list, too, as well as fresh fruit and vegetables. Unlike most, I can’t use camping as an excuse to munch down on the hotdogs (the international mystery meat) and s’mores.

When I was a kid, my dad used to take us camping just so he could cook fancy, interesting fare. I remember driving up above Estes Park one summer, just so he could cook us beef fillets and sautéed mushrooms, asparagus tips with lemon-butter, and grilled tomatoes. We went to bed that night with full bellies, listening to the creek and evening bugs, our lungs full of fine mountain air. That night stands out as one of the best I had as a kid.

Dad was the sort of camping guy who got up early, started the fire, put a speckled pot of coffee on the grate, and cooked breakfast. Bacon and eggs, I think, will always remind me of those trips with him. There’s a part of me that wants to attempt his culinary role this trip, to be the one who cooks pounds of bacon while sipping coffee so strong the grounds stick in your teeth, but I’m resisting that temptation.

I already know, however, that no matter how awesome my energy bars turn out to be, they won’t compare to crisp bacon and flapjacks on a chilly camping morning.

(Photo: My son and my dad, with their dirt experiments)

During the difficult years, when I was a teenager, I lost interest in camping or anything else my dad liked. And for whatever reason, I never took up camping again until now. I’ve been thinking about that today as I’ve prepared for my trip to Shelf. Dad and his wife will be camping that weekend, too, somewhere near the Wyoming and Colorado border. That seems fitting, in some ways.

Sorting out my gear today, laying out my stuff on the livingroom floor, I thought about how much my kids missed out on when they were little. We couldn’t do things that our controller/father figure found upsetting, and anything he couldn’t control upset him. So we didn’t pile into a car and head out for adventure. That would have lead to work (on his part), mess (on theirs), and fun (he was allergic).

We didn’t do much of anything, actually. No sports (he never wanted to sacrifice Saturday mornings to kids’ soccer games). No vacations (though we did drive to Wyoming once –for a funeral). He preferred to watch life pass us all by on television. The road trips came later, after the divorce, when I was shuttling kids back and forth from summer visitations.

That’s when we learned how much fun we could have on the road. It would be years and years later until Jack Kerouac would teach us why.

And maybe this is just a mom thing, but there’s a part of me that feels guilty as I pack up. P’UP has been teaching me a lot about myself, and this week I’m learning that the past is never past us – it lingers. The kids are grown, and none of them want to go with me. I shouldn’t feel guilty at all. Yet I do.

All the same, I’m excited and feeling free to pursue my own goals. After years of maternal sacrifices, that alone presents a myriad of emotional booby traps to navigate. And there’s something else I’ve realized. My own academic use of “inquiry notebooks,” the little black books I carry around, scribble in, throw quotes and poetry into are related in some ways to the notebook of the senior Dr. Jones in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

I watched that film with my dad years ago, and I remember being intrigued by the notebook in it, the one they use to unlock all the secrets to their journey.

Looking at my growing collection of notebooks, I’m wondering what, if any, journeys my kids will find unlocked years from now. I think of the books I’ve made and given away, and wonder if they will someday lead to a metaphorical quest for a covenant or challis. In some ways, this very blog is like one of those notebooks …

"History is never past" … it lingers. It’s in the pages of my books, the ink, the midnight thoughts and ponderings. As I prepare for my next adventure, I wonder what kind of history will unfold, what kind of stories will reveal themselves. Which is, I suppose, why the trip is worth taking even before it has begun.

No comments:

Post a Comment

It's no fun to write into a void. Got something to share?