I like to think of myself as a pretty smart and careful individual. I guess that means I don’t like to make mistakes and don’t view myself as being a person who makes very many. I like to be intentional in my actions.
A week ago I went out and tested a homemade portaledge that I had designed and fabricated over the course of the previous 6 months. Before testing it out, I got that feeling. And I think everyone that has fallen in love with the outdoors has gotten it. Stoke. Psych. The Pump. Whatever you call it it’s the same thing- that drive to go out and connect with nature deeply in the way of performing your favorite activity. In that moment I was feeling this feeling. I bounded over the rocks and roots that crossed my path as I hucked the portaledge on my back up the steep eroded slope leading to the top of the cliffs. I gleefully tied into the anchor and pulled the ledge out of the bag and popped the tubes into the proper positions, cinching the straps to just the right tension before jumping on to the fabric holding me up off the 50 feet of air below me.
And then that feeling left. I sat down and got comfortable and watched the nearly full moon rise above the Keweenaw. As the night grew darker and time further progressed from my initial impact onto the ledge my leave of excitement declined. I don’t want to admit it but I started getting slightly scared and uncomfortable. Thought’s ran through my head about all the things I hadn’t done. I hadn’t notified anyone of where I was going, I didn’t have anyone there with me.
And then it hit me. I was breaking one of my most important rules for heading out on an adventure. Always make sure someone knows where you are going.
This especially hits true for me after events that occurred the previous month. My girlfriend had gone hiking with a friend in the Adirondacks and neglected to tell her parents when she would be returning. I got a phone call from the late at night asking if I knew where she was. After checking with some friends and her parents again, I learned she was safe and sound back home.
It’s easy to overlook the importance of simple things in the field. I never thought I would be that guy, but it turns out I was. Check your knot, tell someone your plans, wear your PFD, whatever it is, just do it. And stay safe.