Sunday, July 30, 2017

Risk vs. Reward

I’ve been taking many risks lately. I’ve gone mountaineering with no gear. I’ve kayaked the North Fork of the Payette and had a scary flip. I’ve been kayaking the truss and have gotten beat up and swam. I’ve run lower mesa falls with with little safety. Driving across the country is a risk too.
                I risk shoulder injury, back injury, drowning, falling to death, and many more possible outcomes. I live on the edge and mistakes are very costly. Putting myself on the line has become the routine. The progression  is higher, faster, and bigger. How big will I go before I must turn away? Do I have the ability to save a friend when they depend on me? Will it ever be my turn to witness tragedy?
                On the river you don’t get many second chances. Every time you lose control you submit yourself to your fate on the river. This danger is the allure. When kayaking it is never you against the river. The river is a platform for you to battle yourself. When you put in to kayak a dangerous river you must be prepared physically and mentally. The river will test your bravery, skills, and resolve. You must have the right gear, skills, and crew. When things start to go wrong you have to pull yourself out of a bad mental space to make sure you can finish the run unharmed. Most of the time you can walk around the waterfall in front of you, but walking a waterfall you intended to do is a submission to yourself. By walking you submit that you aren’t as good as you thought you were. You have to be honest with your abilities. There isn’t much room for egos when lives are on the line.
                What are the possible rewards? The feeling of triumph from conquering yourself. The strength that is built from continually testing yourself in the face of danger. The comradery developed with those that choose to test themselves with you and trust you with their life if things were to spiral out of their control. The discovery of what it feels like to be alive.
                This lifestyle has given me so much. It has given me great friendships, unforgettable experiences, and transformative reflections. If I hadn’t found kayaking I fear I’d be struggling with the questions I have been able to start answering now.
 Is the risk worth it? I don’t have the ability to answer that. Why do I take these risks then? The idea of not pursuing my dreams and living my life to its potential is almost as scary as dying.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


                Living in Jackson Wyoming is a rare breed of youth. Abandoning conventional living standards these renegades choose to live out of their cars rather than pay the expensive rent of property in a resort town. They take up seasonal work filling the positions of guides, shop workers, and waiters to serve the wealthy tourists that flock to Jackson in the summertime. Money is often tight, yet these are some of the happiest people I have encountered with their work. In their free time these Jackson dirtbags spend their time adventuring in the amazing landscape surrounding Jackson. The mountains, rivers, and close friendships make it all worth it. Not everyone knows what their next step is, but they know life is good in the moment. 


              Two weeks into the road trip and time is starting to go more quickly. Our second major stop in the trip landed us in Jackson, Wyoming. The drive from Colorado to Wyoming consisted of some of the vastest landscapes we had ever seen. There were only a couple of small towns that we encountered on our nine hour drive. Our next stop will be Yellowstone for a day hike and then Idaho for more kayaking.
                Our only plans when arriving in Jackson were to go backpacking in the Tetons before moving on. Plans changed when we walked into Rendezvous paddle shop and discovered a close knit paddling community that were quick to show us down some of the best local runs. They introduced us to the local community of young dirtbags who work during the day and live out of their cars by night. We fit right in. Big shout out to Porter, Matt, and everyone else in the Rendezvous crew for the hospitality.
                The Grand Tetons are always a presence around Jackson. We spent a few nights sleeping under the stars on a ridge overlooking the Tetons before exploring them by foot. We went backpacking in Garnet Canyon and stayed at a camp spot called the caves. We were lucky enough to get the whole campsite to ourselves. The second day we climbed to the lower saddle, the highest part of the Tetons that we could reach without rope. What I thought would be a casual day hike turned into a minor mountaineering expedition. We found walking sticks that we used as ice picks to cross large snow passes. Getting to the top required following a loose trail, climbing through vast alpine boulder fields, and making some sketchy snow passes. Towards the top everyone else at the base camp was decked out in gear. We looked out of place with our hiking boots and sticks. Getting down proved to be the real adventure as I decided to slide hundreds of feet down a very steep slope covered in snow. We missed our target path and found ourselves in a survival situation as we had slid down to a sketchy rock island over a massive cliff. The way back required blazing a trail through steep snow and ice patches where a slip could result in a 300 foot plunge. We remained calm and did what we needed to do. Without any protective gear and only a stick to balance myself, I kicked foot holds in the snow and crossed step by step towards safety. Falling was not an option, but certainly a possibility. Once Sam and I had reached safety we reflected upon our encounter with serious danger. The mountain had gained my respect. I won’t underestimate the dangers of the alpine again.
                I’ve had a lot of time to think during the past week. The nature of my experience has taught me things that people from home may have a hard time to relate to. The wild nature of my lifestyle is showing me parts of me I never knew existed. Men are part wild animal and part intellectual. Our intellect separates us from the animals that we think ourselves to be far superior, but a man is still an animal. We have built a society to tame ourselves. I want to experience this wild inside of me. I feel alive as I dance with the danger of the river in my kayak. I feel the fire pushing me to survive as a slip and scramble up a snowy cliff overhanging certain death. I feel the simple pleasure of falling asleep under the stars as the breeze lightly flows through my hair. These raw experiences make me feel human, it makes me understand what I am. I can’t describe these simple truths that I am discovering any more than one can describe the feeling of being in love. It is something you have to experience for yourself and it doesn’t come easy. I can’t find real meaning in distractions we have created to entertain us in society. I think it is ironic that people call our working adult society “the real world”. The world I am experiencing is more real than anything else I have ever been a part of. 

One day soon I will rejoin the workforce as a contributing member of society. Not yet though, I have much more to learn. When I do come back it will be with purpose and it will be under my own terms.

Most Pictures Taken by Sam Lupo. Insta: @fruitlupsfordinner


Tuesday, July 11, 2017


We have been on the road a little over a week now. It seems so long since we have left Maryland. We’ve been travelling around Colorado paddling and camping everywhere we stop. We’ve been meeting friendly people everywhere we go while camping around Boulder, Buena Vista, and Denver. The whitewater community is great out here and we’ve been lucky enough to find good crews with which we’ve paddled the Bailey, Clear Creek, and Numbers. We also took a day to climb Mt. Elbert, the tallest mountain in the Rockies. Today we leave from Colorado to Wyoming with intention to backpack our Nation’s finest natural landscapes.
Plans are made only a day in advance as we travel. We know where we want to go, but never know what we’ll discover when we get there. I feel alive on the road. This feeling of freedom is unparalleled to anything I’ve experienced before. As the first phase of the trip is over I have the sense that I am entering into a world much larger than myself.
This trip isn’t only about me. By truly living and sharing the excitement that comes with adventure with those around me I feel as if I’m beginning to contribute to a greater human experience. I’m no longer a voyeur to my own life trapped in my routine. I’m living life right now. 

Monday, July 3, 2017


Today I am leaving for a road trip that I have planned for years. I will be leaving home and this time I won’t be coming back to stay. The plan for this trip is to kayak and backpack the best places that this country has to offer then settle down where I see fit. I will leave Maryland with my car packed with everything I could need for two months of adventuring on the road. I’ll be accompanied by one of my best friends Sam. We’ll begin our trip by going to Colorado and after that nothing is certain.  I don’t know where the trip will take us or how it will shape who I am. It is my unknowing that drives me to go. I learn the most about myself when pushing my boundaries and leaving my comfort zone. This will be by far my biggest step yet. As I leave the east coast, I leave my previous life and almost everyone I have ever known.
 I want to create my own path moving forwards and not to follow the path that has been laid out before me. It would have been safer for me to commit to getting a job in a city to start my career early and in no way am I criticizing those that do. For me it didn’t make sense though. I know there is more to life for me that I have to experience outside the bounds of my familiar life on the east coast. I have been fortunate enough to get the opportunity to follow my vision through the support of my family and to them I am eternally grateful.  
The beginning of my journey won’t be a commute to work. My beginning will be a pursuit of genuine human experience as I meet people and adventure around the best natural playgrounds that our country has to offer. I will be planning for the future as well as I live in the moment day to day. I will get to experience freedom in its purest form as I roam. Humans weren’t built to live plush lives indoors.
 I don’t want to pretend that I’m not putting myself in danger because I am. The biggest rewards in life aren’t the ones that come safely. I enjoy living on the edge not only for the thrill, but also because of what it teaches me about life. I must take my risks carefully because the potential consequences are real and I’m not invincible. Overcoming a dangerous situation through my skills and wit makes me feel strong. It lets me feel the excitement and emotions that humans are evolutionarily meant to experience. The strong survive and I will survive.  
Things will be different. I’ll miss home. I’ll miss family and friends. It is time for me to go though. I must become a man and this is something that I must earn. There are so many great people in my life that I wish I could have gotten more time with before leaving. I won’t forget those who I have left behind and I hope to give back to those that I meet along the way. I’ll keep posting my stories for those that care for what I have to share.

It is time to see what I can make of myself on my own.