I Used to Live Like That…

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2014 has been a fun year, but an interesting one at the same time. This year has been one of those where I’ve really focused on my penchant to do the things I love…and do them a lot. Sounds simple but sometimes things aren’t always as simple…as just being simple.

I’ve worked really, really hard in the past few years to not let this unnecessarily complicated world creep into and complicate my own simple little world. Complications, most often the totally self-imposed ones, tend to put too many filters on the things we’re really looking for in life. That said, I decided long ago when it comes to living my life, I’ll only “shoot life’s photographs with a basic lens”. No filters to obstruct or alter the view, just enjoy what I have here in my hand…like it is…for what it is.

The downside to living this way is that very, very few other people are dialed into that way of life. Ringing up a friend to go out for a ride or a ski at the last minute, or even a few days’ notice, is no longer that simple. There are so many distractions tugging at (tugging = cluttering) people’s lives anymore it’s almost impossible to get more than a few uninterrupted seconds with anyone, much less a full day. For a world that professes to be connecting itself through technology, it’s actually isolating people like never before. 

This silly phenomenon of being pulled in so many directions renders people’s lives so complicated that simply saying “yes” or “no” becomes a big, scary commitment. When that happens, having to decide on only one thing or another immediately kicks in a person’s FOMO Syndrome — Fear of Missing Out. It’s like having those 976 cable channels and flipping through them constantly looking for the perfect show to dedicate your precious time. You never really slow down or stop long enough to see if you would actually like what you’re seeing! It definitely keeps you busy, but in reality you become a slave to the promise of something better.

This year found me doing more than an inordinate amount of things solo. This has been my biggest single year on a mountain bike with a total of 189 rides, yet I’ve ridden less than 16 times with others. Would I have preferred to ride more with others? Hell yeah I would’ve because I definitely went to some cool places, saw some amazingly stunning scenery, rode some incredibly beautiful singletrack and truly enjoyed the natural beauty of an autumn season here in Colorado not witnessed in the 20+ years I’ve lived here.

The upside to this is when I do these things solo, I can move at my own rhythm. I can get up at those ungodly hours in order to be at a trailhead as the sun rises, or in some cases like when skinning at a resort, get there long before daybreak and spend my time climbing by moonlight or by headlamp. I know these “alpine starts” aren’t for everyone, but I personally find watching the sun break over the horizon to be like nature’s metaphorical permission slip to fashion the day, and in fact the life ahead, into exactly what I want it to be. 

Equally, during the warmer months, I love being at some trailhead super early in the morning to get my mountain biking kit organized for a long day of singletrack, knowing that when that sun finally does come up and I clip into my pedals, whatever else is happening in the world simply won’t matter for the next few hours. 

There were definitely times when I was nervous going out on my own because of the remoteness or rough nature of the terrain where I was headed, but when the choice is to go it alone or not go at all, I’ll go every time. Life is too precious to wait around on others to get their complicated lives sorted out in order to make a simple decision…and sometimes they can’t get it sorted out and are paralyzed into complete inaction anyhow. Sadly, it has sometimes become easier just not to ask at all.

The classic Meyers-Briggs personality test has me equally pegged as an “I” and an “E” (Introvert and Extrovert). My full attribute profile says I’m an ENFP (or INFP 50% of the time). I’ve taken this test a zillion times and been “ranked” right down the middle when it comes to that first attribute every time.

I guess this explains why some days I’m perfectly content being all alone skinning up to some high point in the mountains and can sit patiently for a very long time while I wait on the sun to arrive. There are other times however when I would truly enjoy the company of a good friend, someone to share in the hard work it takes to get where we’re going, share in the magic of a new morning or share in the silent contemplation of what good and amazing things the world and our future has in store for us as we go forward. 

Recently I spent yet another solitary early morning skinning up Arapahoe Basin Ski Area. When I got to Lenawee Ridge (the high point of the resort), I scuttled into the patrol headquarters building (PHQ) to warm up for a minute or two before skiing back down prior to the lifts opening for the day. 

Inside PHQ I found Kent and Doris, a couple I’d met a couple of years ago and whom I fortunately now see regularly throughout the season here at the Basin. If I’m correct, Kent is 77 years old now and Doris his junior by about 10 years. They typically skin up the mountain more than 120 times a season so are kind of local legends in these parts! And don’t be fooled by that 70+ age category because they can still CRUSH you going up AND coming down! 

Not only is it awesome to get up there first thing in the morning and see them chilled out and relaxed, drinking from their small thermos of coffee, reading the day’s paper and ALWAYS smiling, it’s even more awesome and inspiring to see people who love life and cherish its simple gifts as much as they do. In a world of all the false heroes found in pro sports figures, politic nutcases (ugh) and all those other celebrity goofballs, I find Kent and Doris to be the true heroes of life. They 100% “get it”.

Anyhow, as I was packing away my skins, gnawing at my frozen Clif Bar and changing out of my sweaty jacket, we found ourselves discussing how few people were out on the mountain on such a spectacularly beautiful morning. We concluded that being around a holiday, hangovers were probably the culprit for the low turnout. We agreed we were happy to have abstained the night before and were able to enjoy another beautiful sunrise in relative peace — which had just brilliantly started to peek over the surrounding ridges. This is when Kent randomly blurted out something which both warmed my heart and re-affirmed my own lifestyle choices. He said, “I used to live like that… living hard, living complicated, but one day a long time ago I decided I could either do that, or I could become an athlete and spend the rest of my life getting out to places like this and enjoying life’s simple pleasures”. 

Prophetic words spoken from on high…literally…like at 12,485 feet above sea level high!

I do love getting out and adventuring with friends because I really, really do love sharing life’s stoke with the people I care most about. However, when people’s lives get so complicated and bogged down in minutia they can’t make simple time for others, or even make a simple yes or no decision, I’m glad the “I” in my Myers-Briggs profile can kick in and I can easily just go.

Looking back, I’ve had a great kick at it in 2014 and have certainly finished strong this December with another backcountry hut trip with Donna and some good friends. And now that the snow has finally come in earnest, I’ve also been able to get out into the backcountry a couple of times and enjoy some fun-filled days of powder skiing away from the crowded resorts. Most importantly, I’ve had some fabulous simple holiday time with my little family here in Colorado as we close out the year. 

Climb high. Ski hard. Ride long. Live simply.