Writer and philosopher Henry David Thoreau once observed that “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Being self-employed for the past 14-plus years (not to mention raising four kids, two of whom are still in college), I know intimately about being in a state of quiet desperation. Trust me.
And yet, I tend to think that the flip side of that condition is the life led in quiet adventure. I got to thinking about that recently when a friend (and CV Weekly reader) emailed me to comment on my column and new blog. In the course of her email, she casually mentioned that her husband was away in Nepal in his first bid to scale Mt. Everest.
I vaguely remember hearing some time ago that my friend’s husband had set a long-term goal of summiting the 14 tallest mountains in the world (give or take a legendary peak or two). I had no clue that he was as accomplished or as dedicated as to actually wind up in the foothills of the Himalayas on what arguably is the adventure of anyone’s lifetime. To think that living right here in La Crescenta we have our own American version of Sir Edmond Hillary.
Then again, another local friend and frequent subject of CV Weekly articles, Mike Leum, is the kind of guy who competes in triathlons and physical feats of daring-do like the rest of us trek to the mailbox. I mean, talk about adventurers among us – Mike relaxes by climbing hundreds of vertical feet up frozen waterfalls in the winter – that is, when he’s not saving lives in the wilderness and rappelling off hovering helicopters with the Montrose Search & Rescue team.
As if that isn’t hair raising enough, Mike and his wife Nancy are also raising two teenage boys. Oh, my!
While in no way have I ever done anything that rates as high on the adventure scale as climbing icy waterfalls, much less Mt. Everest, I have been known to do some things that might raise the eyebrows of more safe and sedate folks out there – or at least my mother. For example, many years ago I backpacked the entire 219 mile length of the John Muir trail through the great Sierra Nevada wilderness. The last day of this three-week adventure featured an oxygen-deprived trek to the 14,505 foot high summit of Mt. Whitney, the tallest peak in the continental United States. Granted, it’s not even as high as even some of the acclimation camps on Everest, but, it’s certainly enough for me.
I also spent most of one summer at sea as a crewmember of a 45-foot commercial fishing boat, once not seeing land for six weeks straight (I couldn’t eat a tuna sandwich for years afterward). That particular adventure included having to transfer myself, a backpack and my guitar in a teeny tiny plastic dinghy one hundred yards across open water with 15-foot swells to another heaving and pitching trawler while two hundred miles off the coast of Astoria, Oregon. Despite having drifted under the outflow of the ship’s bilge pump and nearly being swamped by its rolling, barnacle-covered hull, I somehow survived that experience, although it didn’t do a whole lot to decrease my lifelong fear of deep, dark water. To this day, I can’t watch an episode of the Deadliest Catch without reliving that summer at sea.
That was all years ago, of course. These days I find more than enough adventure in hiking and biking with my wife, in watching our adult kids chart their own careers and lives, and – most enjoyably – in watching our four (for now, at least) grandkids growing up right before the reading glasses on my nose.
My question is, what do you do for adventure?
If we have neighbors who climb the world’s highest mountains or save lives as a hobby, what other adventurous and not-so-desperate lives are being led out there? Let me know.
I’ll see you ‘round town.