November brings me to that time of year where I can finally take a deep breath. It’s been another long haul since I left last year’s wintering grounds and the comfort of a home. On the first day of spring, in fact, I packed up my life in the truck and headed out. Seven extended backpack trips, three river trips, a month-long bike tour, and who knows how many miles on the odometer, it’s been a hell of a season (or three).
I had a student ask me something last October while we were backpacking in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone Park. “So, you like do this stuff for fun when you’re not working?” Asked a girl from somewhere out East. Of course I do, I told her. Lots of personal trips… backpacking trips, climbing trips, river trips. In the Rockies, in the Southwest. Yurt and cabin ski trips. An occasional international trip. Lots of time in the intermountain West, making that big loop that connects my family, friends, favorite places, and old haunts.
But I look back at 2015, the part that is behind us at least, and see that the work trips have largely superseded the personal ones. Seven months have gone by where I haven’t tied into a climbing rope, haven’t spent a night on my own in the backcountry, and haven’t hardly even shared an outdoor adventure with a friend (save a Teton scramble day-trip, a bachelor party raft day, and a work-related canoe scouting trip). Granted, the winter of 2015 was good to me, probably being my best season of ambitious skiing and topped off with multi-day yurt and cabin trips.
I don’t intend to complain. Just to recognize and reflect on a change in priorities, flow, and structure of my year. I worked with 80-something students in 2015, all in an intensive academic outdoor setting. Just a week or two with some students, more than a month and a half with others. That’s an impact I may never fully be able to comprehend, spending 164 days in the field with students in the past ten months, by latest count. I believe that was time and energy well spent. But I’m burned out. I am thankful for the rich and rewarding experiences I have been able to have and to share, but can feel the toll this is taking on me. Rarely staying in the same spot for more than a few days, and just stacking up the work weeks takes its toll. Today, I don’t bring the energy and vibrance to the classroom or to my personal life that I have come to expect out of myself. It isn’t fair to me, and it isn’t fair to my students.
It is that time of year again to recharge, spend a little more time evaluating what I want the next year to look like, or the one after that. It’s time for some me time. To stay in a place for more than a few days. To visit the friends I value so greatly. To devote a whole day to cooking the meals of that day. To plan and proceed with backcountry-related missions that have been bouncing around in my head for however long. To do all those things that I can say I did in my twenties (the one year countdown began last month!). Lots of time to slow down, but still plenty of time to get things done.
It’s been a hell of a season, but a new one waits in front of me. Friends, can’t wait to see you all. Lets enjoy the last beautiful days of fall as we wait for the snow to start flying.
*Since scrawling this thought in a notebook, the snow has begun to fly in some places, and I have embarked on a fall friends roadtrip, having made my first stops in Montana as I head to Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and then back up North.