Looking back and reminiscing on all my expeditions I realize each one has taught me life lessons. They have been preparing me to deal with hard times and not just mine but to help give strength to the ones I love through theirs as well. This last trip we had an amazing team, that came together and helped push each other as we marched over mountains. This trip was more spiritual and mentally challenging than anything I’ve ever done. This trip was called “The Cycle”, and was created to share the life cycle of a river system.
We started on a cold August morning at the base of the sawtooth mountain range, on an alpine lake in Stanley, Idaho. Not knowing the pain we were about to endure we were all amped and ready for anything. That overwhelming excitement was quickly replaced with a sobering reality that this was about to be a painful journey. With close to 75lbs of gear and a paddleboard lashed to my back, coming from sea level to high altitude things got real… quick. As Jackson, Morgan, and I made our way up, I remember Jackson and I looking at each other and understanding the unspoken words being said with just a look, ‘What are we doing?’ Jackson and I have been through a lot over the years and we’ve learned many things about each other. On this trip we learned even more, but mostly we learned a lot about ourselves; Mother Nature has a funny way of doin that to a person. We would see some pretty amazing landscapes, as we marched over the jagged peaks of the sawtooth wilderness, crossing mountain streams supplied by high alpine lakes that are fed by springs and snowmelt. You see, this is why we came to the wilderness to showcase the beauty and life of a river. Instead, the wilderness showcased something in us that we had either lost a long time ago or something we didn’t yet realize we had in us. For each one of us it would be different, and I can’t speak for the others, but for me it was something very special.
Over the coming days we would paddle and swim in the pristine alpine lakes, and live off the life they provided. We slept under stars as bright as city lights, and breathed in some of the cleanest air our lungs would ever take in. These experiences didn’t come easy though, we suffered every step of the way with bruised hips, blistered feet and sore muscles you never knew you had. Life is never easy and things you love are worth suffering and fighting for; kids and adults today I feel need the outdoors and the waters that flow through them. Just like the life cycle of a river we have a beginning and end, what happens during the flow of those two things is what makes us who we are. There will be people and events that have positive impacts on your life and others that will try to pollute and damn-it with negative impacts. The frigid waters, jagged peaks, pain and vibrant life of the sawtooth wilderness surfaced a strength in me I thought was lost, and made my love affair with Mother Nature stronger. It also solidified why my wife and I created Fight to SOAR – to protect these places, hopefully inspiring our youth and adults to get outside and protect them also.
As we made our way down through the rock fields, meadows, and streams to the salmon river where we paddled our way back to the beginning of our journey completing our trip. Looking back at the smoky silhouette of the mountain range I had mixed emotions of relief and accomplishment, but mostly a huge respect for it and my team, with the desire for more. Knowing the river we were floating on started high in those mountains, experiencing its birth and some of its life flow was very educational.
We learned the true meaning of team work, mental strength, and for me I gained a stronger spiritual connection with God and the amazing things he allows us to enjoy on this earth. We are all inspired and forged by experiences and people in our life. For me I was inspired by my parents and forged in nature around me growing up… what inspires you?