1 Component of Adventure

Over growing rollers, Jaime and I made our slow way along the Leigh Lake shoreline toward the distant launch. Checking the buckles on my life jacket, I looked at the sky—hopeful it would turn and take its squall elsewhere. A trio of people had pulled their canoe up on the beach, tucked in to watch the approaching storm. We rounded a point, and a cold wind whirled down from the mountain and manhandled our canoe.

I’d learned to canoe at camp. Jaime and I had made a couple of short river trips. We took our family out on a small, local lake every week. I knew how to handle tame water, but this water wasn’t tame, and it manhandled me. Whirling to ask Jaime what to do, I inadvertently turned us parallel to the frothy whitecaps. Over the roaring wind, he coached me past the point toward a sheltering cove where we could stop and, like the trio we had just passed, wait it out.

Our day’s adventure had spent years in development. It wasn’t that it took that long to train for. It had just taken a while for it to move from the list of things to do someday to an actual plan—one I didn’t want derailed by inclement weather. 

We were in the Tetons and had started at the Jenny Lake boat launch. From there, we’d paddled into String Lake, its glassy surface showcasing the pebble and boulder mosaic below. Reaching the far end, we disembarked, pulled our red canoe onto the sandy shore, and took our place in line behind the many others portaging to Leigh Lake. After maneuvering our way down the narrow chute that served as a launch, we settled it into the small bay and set off. Under a blue sky and a warm breeze, we followed the shoreline awhile and decided to cross to the island in the middle. Knowing we were supposed to watch for afternoon thunderstorms, I glanced up. Aside from a distant dot of white fluff, the sky—like the forecast and the water—was clear. 

And now the sun was gone. The distant fluff had transformed into a tempest that didn’t look to be leaving anytime soon. 

I was cold. I was wet. And, as I admitted here, I have “commitment issues” when things get dicey. (And don’t things always get dicey?) So I made a fair-weather proposal: We could beach the canoe, hike back to the van, enjoy hot showers and a relaxing evening, and canoe out in the morning. I wasn’t sure what Jaime would say. Canoeing is my thing. Adventure is his. This was not an adventurous proposal.

Since you’re reading here, I assume you have an affinity for adventure. You’re probably familiar with Dan’s definition of adventure: an experience where you learn by persevering into the unknown, finding fulfillment. You might agree that my proposal missed the adventure mark. 

Jaime had a lot to consider. 

He knew our team and our situation: He knew himself, me, and my tolerance for misery. He knew we were on the front end of a week we hoped to fill with adventures of various kinds.

We go to the mountains for restoration. We receive it from the air and the water, the backcountry solitude, silence, and scenery. We claim it when we rest beside still water, wait for a geyser to erupt or a wolf to appear, and take on challenging slopes. We find it as we slow ourselves down enough to let our hearts and souls catch up with our minds and bodies. 

We push ourselves but we don’t punish ourselves.

Jaime looked at the sky. He looked at me. And he agreed. We dragged our canoe up to the trees, picked up the trail, and hiked out. Hours later, we drifted to sleep to the percussion of still-falling rain against the sides of our van and woke to the distinctive glow of sunlight trying to pierce the six inches of snow that had piled up in the night.

That wasn’t in the forecast. 

After we brushed the late-August powder from our vehicle, we hiked back to our canoe, rolled up our pant legs, took off our shoes, plunged into the water, and picked up where we left off. The calm, clear conditions were back, but the temperature was well below freezing, so we had the lake to ourselves. The previous morning’s summer shoreline had transformed into a deep-winter scene. 

Even though this happened long before I knew Dan’s definition of adventure, I felt like a quitter, like I’d failed because I didn’t suck it up and keep going. I didn’t persevere. But, as we paddled over the once-again glassy water, surrounded by pine boughs burdened and bent under the weight of unexpected snow, the sense of failure faded. I didn’t make this decision alone; I made it with Jaime, with my team. And we didn’t leave the canoe or the quest behind for good. We’d made a course correction. We’d traded unnecessary misery for restoration—which is what we were there for in the first place. 

Some days, we persevere. Others, we change plans. Some days, persevering through pain brings fulfillment. Others, a course correction bestows a reward. Which day is which? Well, that’s unknown–a key component of adventure. 

Do you rely on your team to help you course-correct or do shoulder that on your own? How does it work out for you? Help your fellow adventurers out and share in the comments.

Happy trails ~ Natalie

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