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My Lowas

26 Aug

My Lowas

“The most alive is the wildest.” – HDT

After eight years, six continents, and hundreds and hundreds of miles, my hiking boots finally gave up the ghost.

The death of my Lowas was a little like losing a close friend. We’ve had so many memorable adventures. We hiked the Inca Trail, stalked lions in Botswana, tiptoed knife-edge ridge lines in Hawaii, walked on the Zuidersee Works, traipsed through Australia, climbed mountains in Korea, dangled off the south rim of Big Bend at sunset, almost died in a freak summer storm in the Alps, and tread dozens of wild places across the United States.

Thinking back fondly on these expeditions and the people I shared them with allows me to relive those experiences in my mind: the secret bottle of cabernet stashed in the bottom of my pack, picking fruit off the tree for a meal, catching salmon by the boatload, the lone little goat with a bell around its neck encountered high up on a ridgeline, finally making it to the summit, and too many amazing sunsets to count. There were laughs and tears as well: trying to start a fire with no matches, running out of water, a curious skunk, a cocktail party in the African bush, a collapsed tent or two, being charged by a Kodiak bear, rain, wind, snow, more than a few bumps, bruises and blisters, and one severely broken ankle.

My old Lowas took me to the wild places. They were my passport to nature and took me away from the over-civilized people that populate my day-to-day life. My boots took me to the mountains where I drew my strength and satisfied myself that there was meaning to be found in the woods. Who can look at wonderful nature and not be prompted to wonder more? There are answers on the mountaintop.

My grief will abate. I’ve already begun to get to know a new pair of Lowa hikers. The relationship is still stiff and uncomfortable, but I am committed to making it work. Over time, I expect the bond to grow and for our relationship to become easy and supple. There is no telling what adventures await us just over that yonder hill. There are many, many more miles to go.

 

A timely quote for you to consider. It’s as if he were right here with us today.

“Short-sighted men, who in their greed and selfishness will, if permitted, rob our country of half its charm by their reckless extermination of all useful and beautiful wild things.” – Teddy Roosevelt

Live Large Takes Kauai

13 Aug

IMG_8771“A life-changing week of experiences.”

“Pushing me outside my comfort zone.”

“Getting to know amazing new friends.”

This is what I heard from the incredibly impressive group of intrepid explorers that joined me in Kauai for a week of adventure. A Live Large trip to Hawaii is a little different than your typical tropical beach vacation. We journeyed beyond the edges way out in nature.

IMG_8900The experience left me both exhausted and exhilarated (and a little sore.) The week was action packed including spending the day on a secluded beach with a beautiful fresh water waterfall, enjoying an amazing variety of local cuisine (including poi and mass quantities of poke and pina coladas), learning to do the hukilau hula at a luau, climbing mountains, swimming in a queen’s bath, and picking fruit, flowers and avocados right off the trees in the yard.

IMG_9154We even got to go surfing with a pro and everyone in the group caught on easily. There is no risk that any of us are going to be asked to star in a sequel to Blue Crush, but we all now understand what it means to feel “stoked.” The surfing high lasted all afternoon.

The highlight of the trip was a three-day backpacking and camping excursion into one of the remote uninhabited valleys on the Na Pali coast. Some members of the team spent weeks dreading the eleven-mile hike along a treacherous trail that hugs the coast with 800-foot drop-offs. For those with a fear of heights, this was the “pushing way outside the comfort zone” part of the trip. The 4,000 feet of total elevation gain made the trek arduous but the reward was something out of a fantastic dream.IMG_9658

The Kalalau Valley was settled by Hawaiians close to 1,000 years ago and was finally abandoned in the late nineteenth century. The evidence of this early civilization remains in the form of terraces, heiaus (ancient Hawaiian places of worship), and fruit trees.

IMG_9542We hiked all over the valley, tried an old swing we found tied high up in a tree, played and showered in waterfalls, explored sea caves, ate exotic fruit off the trees, practiced yoga on a heiau at dusk, watched one of the most unbelievable sunsets of our lives, and learned a lot about the island, its history and its culture. We also learned a lot about each other.IMG_9626

It was a magical few days I will never forget with a group of people that I am proud to call new friends – my growing Live Large family. The hike out of the valley was tough, but our packs were lighter and we had a bottle of homemade passion fruit champagne waiting for us at the end of the trail.

It has been a couple of weeks now and the valley is still tugging at my subconscious – calling me back. Kalalau is a spiritual place with a powerful force. You cannot truly experience it without being affected in some way.

The Live Large Manifesto encourages us to “say yes and go.” I am so glad that I did. My time on island with this group is a true highlight of my life. We did it right and we can’t wait to do it again. This is a life experience worthy of a place in anyone’s collection.IMG_9734

 

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