It was the podcast you hope for setting out for a long walk: a tale of adventure and intrigue from a distant time that makes you think, Man, I wish I’d been there. That sense of longing fades to wistfulness when you realize you could have been there. Or some place very much like it.
The podcast was the latest from Climbing Gold, titled Dope Lake: Misfts.” The episode, the first in a series, is about by a plane that went down in a small lake in Yosemite’s high country in 1976. The plane wasn’t immediately located because of its remote location and the fact the lake it went into quickly iced over. One other thing: the plane was flying low to avoid being detected, because it was carrying 6,000 pounds of pot. (One quibble: The podcast claims the pot, the popular, at the time, Mexican variety, was valued at $4 million. In fact, Mexican sold for $10 an ounce at the time, thus making the haul worth just under $1 million.)
A pivotal part of the story is the misfit climbing community that existed at the time in Yosemite. A community defined by climbers who would stealth camp near the best climbs, and spent as much time avoiding eviction notices from park rangers as they did climbing. Climbers who arrived in the valley with little more than a dollar to their name. Climbers who were living large if they had a sleeping bag. Climbers, nearly all male, who were young and knew they didn’t have forever to live the misfit life.
Not my moment
I was nowhere near Yosemite when this scene was happening in the mid-1970s. Rather, I was 1,200 miles east, living along Colorado’s Front Range, which also had a lively climbing community. Writer/climber Jon Krakauer (“Into Thin Air,” “Into the Wild”) and other climbers who were soon to dominate the climbing world were honing their skills in El Dorado Canyon outside Boulder. I was introduced to that scene on a cold November afternoon when Bobby, my roommate and a climber, dragged me along to watch the canyon’s climbing elite spider their way up Bastille Crack, Yellow Spur and other routes that would become classics. I’d occasionally tag along to watch when Bobby would head up for an hour of bouldering at Horsetooth Reservoir outside town. Once he tried to convince me to climb Long’s Peak with him in February. Around 3 a.m., about the time he should have been breaking camp and starting his summit ascent, he instead stumbled back into our apartment. “Man, was it cold!”
Despite Bobby’s influence, the climbing bug didn’t take. I was, frankly, too lazy and unmotivated at the time. This was not my moment to seize.
I remembered this as I continued listening to the podcast. Good for the misfits for recognizing and seizing their moment. Conversely, it wasn’t my moment, so why rue it’s passage?
Rather, live in the present and seize the moments that comes along today.
A New Year’s deadline
For me, that moment won’t involve climbing. I dabbled in indoor climbing gyms for a few years, only made it to real rock twice. I liked it, but that was 15 years ago, and the physical difference between 50 and 65 is significant. I may not be able to muster the stamina or generate the muscle required to climb, but I am still physically capable of other outdoor pursuits, which brings us to the “thankful” portion of this post: I’m thankful I can still act on any number of moments out there to seize.
Which leads us to the, for lack of a better description, New Year’s deadline portion of the post.
I’m not a huge fan of New Year’s Resolutions. If you want to achieve something — drop 20 pounds, run a marathon — why wait until an arbitrary date to start working toward it?On the plus side, using January 1 as a goal gives you focus — and a deadline. And launching that search more than a month out gives you time to come up with something meaningful, time to recognize, to be open to, those moments worth seizing.
Right now, I have no idea what that seize-worthy moment, or moments, might be. The last time I remember setting serious goals was when I turned 55 and seized on the number 55. As in, do a 55-mile backpack trip, run 11 5Ks (55 total Ks), do a 55-mile trail run.
A moment worth seizing
Critical to seizing a moment is to be in a position to seize the right moment. In my case, I’ve ruled out climbing as being impractical for physical reasons. Another factor: time. I work full-time making, say, thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail a bit impractical. In fact, my goals likely won’t focus on feats of strength and stamina as much as they did when I turned 55.
Year of the Trail is next year in North Carolina, and I’m involved in helping to make that happen; if I’m smart, YOTT will play into my plans. We moved to a town near the Virginia border, so new adventures in the vicinity could be part of the plan as well. I’ve also become curiously interested in birding. Will 2023 be my Big Year? And, prompted by “Dope Lake,” I’ve also been thinking about moments missed, but that could still be seized in the future. Moments don’t necessarily have to be seized in the moment; if a moment continues to stick with you, it’s still a moment worth seizing.
Thanksgiving weekend is an appropriate time to begin watching moments to seize. For many, you have several days removed from the daily grind, freeing up mental space otherwise consumed with mundane functions. And, of course, Thanksgiving is a reminder to be thankful that you are capable of seizing the moment that resonates with you.
When you discover that moment? Don’t wait until New Year’s Day to act. Seize it now.