Issue Number : x Date : June 28, 1996 Period Covered : 08/07/95 - 08/29/95 Current Location: San Francisco, CA Future Stops : X-country to NY, Alaska
We’re going to do a little time travelling here. These
postcards are getting harder for me to write since I came back
to the States. I have been laying low in Colorado and there is
not much to report. It’s been fun for me to try to get back to
a normal life for a change, but that doesn’t make for
interesting postcards. So I am going back in time to tell you
about a trip I took last year in Colorado.
I have been wanting to do an Outward Bound trip for a few
years. I signed up for one in 92 but got injured and couldn’t
go. I finally enrolled in a 23 day alpine mountaineering trip
in the Colorado Rockies. We backpacked, hiked amd camped in
the San Juan Range. This is where most of Colorado’s 14’ers
are located and the scenery was spectacular.
OB was started by a German, Kurt Hahn, in Wales after WWII. It
was originally designed to teach young sailors how to deal with
adversity. Back then, when ships encountered rough conditions
out at sea, the old crusty sailors had a better survival rate
than the young ones. Kurt found this puzzling and deduced that
the older sailors knew how to cope better based on their
experience at sea. The young sailors were stronger but they
did not know how to harness and utilize their strengths. So
Hahn started a school to teach the young sailors the survival
skills needed to deal with the demanding conditions when they
were outward bound. The school has evolved into an
international organization that not only teaches survival
skills but also teamwork, respect for the environment and
leadership. There are special classes for educators, MBA
students, families, corporate workers and at risk teenagers.
I never really camped or hiked before, so I was a little
nervous going into my course. OB stressed that the course was
going to be very strenuous and recommended that the students be
in good physical condition. Two weeks prior to my trip, I
started biking about an hour a day. I assumed this was good
enough to get my lungs and legs into reasonable shape. Boy was
I in for a rude awakening.
They class was divided into 4 different groups. I was placed
in one of the older groups whose ages ranged from 21 to 33.
There were 9 of us(5 men and 4 women) and 2 instructors, Nancy
and Chandra. Everyone had different reasons for taking the
course and for most of us, a major change in our lives was on
the horizon. Some of us were graduating, working on their
thesis, taking some time off, starting a new job or
transferring to a new school.
On the first day of class, we were taught what and how to pack.
We were encouraged to bring as little as possible, since the
less we bring, the easier it would be to carry our backpacks.
This meant minimal clothing and almost no toiletries. There
would be no showers so everyone was going to get very grungey
and smelly. Deodorants were banned and the guys decided to
have a facial hair growing contest. I didn’t need to enter as I
predictably came in last. We filled our backpacks with clothes
and divvied up the commmon gear and food. Even with a
conscious effort to pack only the necessities, our backpacks
weighed over 40 pounds.
The first week was grueling. We had to get used to the
altitude, the weight of our packs and the hiking. The days
were long since we always started early and hiked until
dinnertime. Our muscles were getting sore, blisters were
forming and a few people got sick. The mosquitos were eating
me up alive and I was seriously thinking about quitting. Most
of us were having a real hard time but no one gave up. While
we were suffering, we were also learning about living in the
wilderness. We quickly learned how to choose a campsite, set
up camp, cook, navigate, use ice axes, cross streams, bushwack
and hike over different types of terrain.
OB preaches a low impact approach to camping and we learned the
leave no trace philosophy recommended by the U.S. Forest
Service. We had to pack out everything that we brought in.
We tried to minimize the impact we had on the environment so
that others can enjoy it after us. This also meant the use of
natural toilet paper. We had to wipe our butts with leaves,
twigs, rocks and snow. OB encourages respect for nature and
also respect for your body. Not only we’re we increasing our
physical fitness level but also our health. During our 23 days
we ate only vegetarian food. Alcohol, tobacco and drugs were
banned. We didn’t even have coffee.
The first week was spent learning new skills and getting into
shape. During the second week, we became more independent and
we tried to apply what we learned in the first week. Nancy and
Chandra were in the background now, and each of us was given
the chance to lead. It took awhile for us to gel as a group,
but I think that is part of the OB experience. We had our
share of minor squabbles and personality conflicts, but that is
to be expected when you throw 9 total strangers together in the
wilderness. We had to work out our problems and help each
other out as we climbed our first 14000 foot peak.
In addition to the hiking and camping we also did some rock
climbing and rappeling. I really enjoyed it eventhough my
hands and fingers were thrashed from the grips and handholds.
It reminded me of my high school wrestling days because you had
to use every muscle in your body and leverage to propel
yourself up the mountain. There is a real sense of triumph
when you finally reach the top of a climb.
The last 2 days of our second week was spent soloing. Each
person was left alone in the woods with a small tent and
minimal food. We had to spend the 2 days reflecting and
fasting. This exercise made us more comfortable in the
outdoors and proved that we could survive if we were ever
lost in the wilderness. The 2 days went by quickly. It rained
continuously so I spent most of the time under the tent writing
in my journal. Afterwards, I wasn’t even that hungry. That
was the most surprising thing since, as most of you can attest
to, I love to eat. As long as we had fresh water and some sort
of shelter, we could survive for a few days without food.
After 2 weeks out in the woods, we relaxed for 2 days and
prepared for finals. We spent one of the days on a community
service project. We lead a local group of physically and
mentally challenged kids on a ropes course. It was rewarding
to see how much they enjoyed the outdoors. It also allowed
everyone in the class to show the compassionate and giving side
of themselves. That day was a refreshing change from the
physical grind of the previous 2 weeks.
The last week was our final exam. Our group merged with
another class and we split up into small teams of 5. Each team
was given maps and a route to follow. We had to head out on
our own and spend the next 7 days getting to our destination.
This meant 7-10 miles of hiking per day. The skills we learned
in our first 2 weeks definitely prepared us for finals. It was
a tough 7 days but everyone made it. It felt so good to come
out of the woods and finally reach basecamp. When finals vere
finished, we had an 8 mile run to close out our trip.
I hate running so I wasn’t looking forward to the race. It
really wasn’t a race because no one was forcing us to run the
whole way. After 3 weeks hiking in the woods, everyone was in
good enough shape to finish the course, but it was up to each
of us to challenge ourselves to do it. To make it easier, we
were told to dedicate the run to someone. When we got tired or
when our bodies started to ache, we had to think of who we were
running for. I dedicated my run to Aviva. She was the one who
told me about OB years ago and inspired me to sign up. This
little trick worked. I never ran more than 3.5 miles before,
but I ran the whole way and finished in 72 minutes.
Looking back, this trip was a real adventure. We hiked over 70
miles, climbed a few 14000 foot peaks, endured lightning
storms, crossed the Continental Divide and survived. Along the
way, we encountered scores of wildlife(elk, sheep, rabbits,
coyotes, marmots and pikas), walked through beautiful valleys
filled with wildflowers and immersed ourselves in gorgeous
scenery. When you’re on this type of trip, people tend to bond
pretty quickly. We spent hours talking with each other while
hiking and around the campfire. You learn a lot about the
people that you’re with and also a lot about yourself.
I can definitely say that this was the toughest challenge –
physically and mentally that I have ever attempted. We had our
share of conflicts, injuries and setbacks but we overcame most
of them and moved on. I came away from this 12 pounds lighter,
with more self confidence and some new skills that will help me
in my travels. When things get tough for me now, I just think
back and I know that whatever I’m facing, it is easier than my
trip with Outward Bound.
Its been about 2 months qince my last postcard and so much has
happened in that time. Yes, I am still alive and I am still
travelling. No, I haven’t joined a hippie commune, joined a
cult, been abducted by aliens or been seduced by an enchantress. I have been real busy and I’m so behind in responding to my emails. So let me get some administrative details out of the way. Good luck to Gary and Greg on your new jobs. Happy housewarming to Sonia, Eileen and Gary. Congrats to Cathy on your news. Good luck to Masako and Momo on your transfers. Congrats to Megan on your promotion. Congrats to Dave for your VPship and good luck in Boston. Thanks for all your birthday greetings. Finally, thanks to everyone that gave me references for my driveaway.
After riding illegally for the last few years, I finally got my
motorcycle license. Now I have to find a nice used bike so I
can practice. I met this girl from Scotland that rented a
motorcycle in Las Vegas for a month. She was riding around
and camping in all the National Parks in Utah and Arizona. She
just got her license before she came here. Riding alone in the
desert in shorts in a foreign country on the other side of the
road would be very daunting. She has dropped the bike 4 times
in the 2 weeks that she has had the bike.
I finally moved out of Boulder. My stay was definitely too
short. I liked Boulder but I couldn’t live there. Its too
small of a town for me. My plans to ski and camp were a little
ambitious. Skiing was great because of all the snow CO got
this year, but the same snow prevented me from doing much
camping. Most of the good campsites were still under snow when
I left. I had to go west to camp. I rented a car and drove to
Arches, Canyonlands, Grand Canyon and Mesa Verde National
Parks, If you plan on visiting more than 2 NP, you might want
to consider buying a Golden Eagle pass for $25. Its valid for
a year and it saved me over $20 so far. Yosemite, Yellowstone
and the Grand Canyon are 10 bucks a pop to get in these days.
I did a driveaway from Denver to San Francisco. The car was a
piece of crap but it made it. Driveaways are a cheap way to do
long roadtrips but you have to drive about 400 miles a day.
I have been doing a lot of driving in the last few weeks and I
have been keeping an eye out for hitchhikers but I haven’t seen
that many. I gave this one guy a ride from Durango to Denver.
Matthieu was French and was in the States to do some research
on Native Americans for a film documentary. During our long
drive together, he paid half the gas, bought me dinner, gave me
a lesson in French, taught me how to juggle and turned me on to
some jazz. When we got to Denver, he couldn’t get a room at
the YMCA so I invited him to stay at my house in Boulder for a
couple of days. I showed him around and now I have a place to
stay in Paris when I go there in the September. In Arizona,
people thought I was a Navajo Indian. Maybe when I get to
Alaska, I could pass as an Eskimo.
** Sundeep – Thanks for the DP book. It made me laugh and I
thoroughly enjoyed it. In the introduction it says to give it
to your worst enemy, hoping they will use it as a travel guide.
** Irene – Hopefully I can see Quin in September (either in NY
or London). Can’t wait to go to some of the parties. My only
concern is that the supermodels are too tall for me. **
** Cheryl – By the time you read this I will be in Anchorage.
Sorry, I haven’t written. I will call you this week. I am
doing a 1 week camping trek until the 20th. I was supposed to
stay until the 31st but I’m thinking of extending my stay. I
finally finished On the Road. Thanks for bugging me to read
it. Get ready for some fishing. **
** Jaisong – I will be back in Anchorage the weekend of the
20th. What hotel are you staying at? I don’t know which one
I’m staying at yet. Hotels are pretty booked up. What are your
plans for the 21-23rd? Tony is flying in on the 21st too. +*
** Tony – I looked into car rentals. Really expensive! $300
-400 a week for a subcompact. See what rate you come up with.
Hertz, Alamo, Budget, National, Dollar and Thrifty are all at
the airport. I will call you on Thursday to discuss cars and .
** Julia – Which islands did you visit? Did you go to Irian
Java? My next postcard should be about my crosscountry GT
trip. Didn’t you and Dave do one a few years back? **
I’m reading this great book called “The Magic Bus: An American
Odyssey” by Douglas Brinkley. Its about an American history
professor at Hofstra that conducts class on a cross country bus
trip. There is so much in the book that I identify with. He
writes about Boulder, Green Tortoise trips, Kerouac, bus
drivers from Franklin Square and Springsteen.
I am adding a two new sections(Highlights & Lowlights)to the
postcard. Both should be self explanatory.
** Eileen – How did your race go? **
** Niels – Too bad I missed you in Chicago. We got in around 6
and left at 3. Packed a lot in that night. Had pizza, shot
some pool, saw a play and caught some blues. **
** Alan – Thanks for the info. I passed it on to my friend but
he chose to go to Club Med instead. **
** Jason – Do you want to see a Giants game in August? I have
a tax question for you. If I get a mortgage through a broker
and he splits the points with the lender, is the broker’s share
considered points or commission? More importantly is it
driving through Trailridge Road (highest paved road in US)
watching the sunset at Plateau Point in the Grand Canyon
seeing Natalie Merchant at Red Rocks Amphitheater
catching 2 baseballs at a Rockies game
running in the Bolder Boulder (my first official 10K race)
accidently finding a truck stop where Springsteen once ate at
camping under Landscape arch in Arches NP
getting into a car accident in Salt Lake City
nearly running out of gas in the Utah desert (twice)
Quote of the Day
We are all better than we know.
If only we can be brought to realize this,
we may never be prepared to settle for anything less.
— Kurt Hahn
The views expressed in this postcard are solely my own. They
may not be politically correct and may even be exaggerated.
Names may be changed to protect the innocent or guilty parties.
I do not have a spell checker so typographical errors will be
common. Reproduction or rebroadcast without the expressed
written consent of Major League Baseball is strictly