Return to the Outdoors

October 17, 2008 at 6:21 am

As mentioned in a previous post, I won a cool watch as a semi-finalist in the Timex Return to the Outdoors contest. After getting many requests to see the aforementioned essay, I finally got a copy back from the people at the website. Here it is!


“I’m STUCK!” I scream out to anybody who is listening. I can hear my friends laugh out loud and then begin yelling encouragement back to me. The situation does not seem as funny to me. I’m wedged in the teeth of a giant crack in a granite boulder that is, quite literally, older than dirt. My right hand is wedged deep in the darkness before me, and the crystals of the granite are slowly, excruciatingly, tearing the skin on the back of my hand. My left hand is braced against the edge of the rock in front of me, pressing my shoulder and back into the sharp crystalline rock on all sides. My feet kick helplessly as I try to find some way to move. Up or down, it doesn’t matter at this point, I just need to move. I wiggle my knee into the crack and flex my thigh, the muscles expand and bite into the rock on either side. Or maybe the rock is biting me. It gives me enough purchase to slowly ooze up another 6 inches, and reposition for the next move.

I am climbing a wide crack in Vedauwoo, Wyoming, and it is one of my favorite things to do! The rock is old, and it knows better than me. I am little, and the mountain is big. When I finally make it to the top of the crack, and then the top of the rock, I am exhausted in all ways. I sit on top of the rock, bleeding a little, feeling the wind on my face, and feeling utterly content. On all sides of me are huge rock formations. The wind is howling through the aspens below, making them glitter in the sun. I can see a hawk gliding overhead and a herd of antelope grazing on the plain to my south. The air smells like dust, rock, sagebrush and sweat. My friends are chattering a hundred feet below me. And I am truly happy. Vedauwoo is a wild and special place. It is secluded and exposed at the same time. The climbing is painful and exhilarating. The wind blows and I feel full of life. I will come back to this place again and again. I hope to return often for the rest of my life, bringing family, new friends, and eventually my own children and their children. My house may not be in that wild valley, but it is my home.