Saturday, August 5, 2017




Cory's cheeks smooshed against blue velour, mouth slightly ajar.  His gangly legs stretched from door to door, covering the entire back bench in our family Buick.  On the floor parallel, a little girl twisted comfortably over the hump dividing passenger from driver sides.  I was five, my brother eight and my parents, they were parent aged.


Dad packed our car to a wobble and he now steered the Brett clan westward.  The pre-dawn light seeped over the horizon at our backs, but I couldn't feel any of this...passed out in my little carpet nook. 

Our first big foray in the Buick swept us from our little suburban home near Minneapolis to the Badlands, South Dakota.  I became feverish when my brother even looking out my window.  Mom bribed quite hours with M&M's and small rations of Shasta soda.  We mingled amongst crowds of families on similar vacation circuits  




Year two we ventured the white sedan further from home to the Black Hills and Mt. Rushmore, melding our version of family tradition.  We assumed our assigned positions, racing westward across state borders.  Entertainment at Mt. Rushmore was a family spitting contest over the Monument railings.  No disrespect, just a quick lesson in physics.  

Our third year we visited Glacier National Park where I learned valuable socializing skills— bar hopping!  Apparently fond of our horseback guide, I followed him into a local pub and plopped down on a bar stool next to him (I was seven). 


Cory and my gangly legs began spurting out the bottom of our pants and curiosity gushing from our ears.  With each passing summer my parents also outgrew their comfort zones.  On the first vacation trip, my mother carried a flu stricken little girl on her back to the summit of Harney’s Peak, South Dakota.  Now the adolescent children carried their own overnight backpacks.  

Mother embraced tent life while dad calmly learned to operate heavy machinery, our new dictionary sized home video recorder.  We all exchanged the comforts of a hotel, swimming pool or television screens, for tactile wilderness entertainment.  We scrambled up and over Rocky Mountains boulders and held competitions who could stand in frigid alpine lakes the longest.  As the orange sun settled over expansive skylines, we discussed the wild animals we had seen and gazed at the expanse of stars.  Our cozy tent ballooned with laughter during take-turn ghost stories.  Waiting for sleep to come a sweeping cool breeze soothed my tired legs and curious mind. 





Armpit hair and crackling voices brought us through California, Oregon and Washington.   In Yosemite I proclaimed, "I am going to climb that one day," craning my neck up at El Capitan.  One of our last trips found us in the Cascades.  My brother dropped off, now in college.  With only one child to entertain, my dad and I mimicked seal calls, while I tried not to be a moody teenager.  




By the time I graduated High School, I had visited nearly every National Park or Monument west of the Mississippi (excluding Alaska and Hawaii).  Attending the University in Minnesota, I found missed the freedom of the West.  I didn’t enjoy learning from lectures, I missed learning from my own mistakes and experiences.  I pushed through four years quickly.  As others walked across the stage accepting their diploma, I was probably accepting a speeding tickets somewhere in Nebraska.     

My parents didn't have a ton of money, nor much free time.  Our family vacations unloaded their two weeks paid time off for the year.  In talking with them now, years later, my dad expressed sentiment towards one goal as a parent, “to play.”  The beauty of play for a child, but also to maintain that sense of wonderment as an adult.   


This spring in Zion National Park, a young boy on the shuttle bus into the park was enthusiastically describing his wilderness experience that day.  His eyes were wide, energy bursting outward from his lightly tanned skin.  Science has proven time and time again the positive effects wilderness and play has on our physical well-being but also our mental health.  Exercise in our early years helps with brain development, particularly the speed of which we can learn, decipher and retain new information.  The added bonus of instilling an appreciation for play and outdoor experiences in our younger generations is they will hopefully carry a voice for protecting public lands in the future, an entire bag of worms I won't delve into....  

Play and adulthood are not mutually exclusive.  Nor is play restrictive to the outdoors, although this is the version that nabbed me.  As I have aged and chosen a life with more play than the average adult, I feel inspired to encourage others to remember play.  I am lucky to have found a work path in the National Parks, though I didn't come here directly.  Now, I am part of a specialized team who provide technical search, rescue and medical assistance to those who have a had bad fortune during their wilderness experience.  Everyday I get to connect with visitors, sharing my passion.  Ultimately sharing outdoors time with children and adults, one-by-one infecting them —- giving them the tools to safely enjoy and spread the joy for playing outside.   

A little bit of play, a run, a book, or whatever it is that allows an escape, imagination, concocting ideas --- al of it makes us better humans.  I find I smile, I laugh more, I am more patient when I get my daily dose.    





Sunday, January 22, 2017

Yosemite's Red-Headed Step Child.

I limped along a 3 mile semi-trail at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum with my folks.  Dad questioned, "did you really run from one side of the Grand Canyon to the other, in one day?"
Mom chuckled at my pace, "are you really that sore?  Finally we are faster than you!"
Yup

That was Sunday, two days after our massive jaunt.

Monday I was northbound again, to Zion!  Libby, who patiently forgave my week hiatus in our plans, was awaiting our next adventure.   Legs still ached but the approaches to the sandstone cliffs in Zion were managable.  "Bobs Big Wall Service," as I affectionately like to call the shuttle busses in Zion, drop you off at the start of your intended route.  I just needed to boogie up 100-200 feet of trail.

Tuesday we goofed our way up Touchstone Wall.   It went rather quick.  I led the first half, then Libby took the lead and we simul-climbed to the top.  She was on-sighting the route.  I think we had a time of just under 3 hours?

Wednesday we wove into the sandstone canyon again.  Climbing was a different movement that felt nice for achy legs.  Familiar with the top of Spaceshot, we simuled the first 3 pitches and Libby scoped out the middle pitches on lead.  We rappelled mid-day.  After a quick regroup, we wandered over to Sheer Lunacy.  Again, I was familiar with the start so I led us up to where Sheer and Moonlight diverge from one another.

 In 2013, Buster Jesick and I successfully climbed Spaceshot, Touchstone and Moonlight before a series of misadventures had us agreeing safety over stupidity.  To climb 4 walls in a day in Zion was still on my bucket list.

Libby took climbing to a stance below Toquerville Tower.  From here I zoomed up an easy long pitch to the base of the goods.  I chose to short fix/aid the 13 variation straight up to the top of the wall.  Our time was great, we felt confident in our gear --- now we just needed to weave the potential crowds on attempt day!

Thursday we ate pizza, drank beer while chatting with our videographer friends Cody and Scottie (http://www.wingatemotion.com/).  Adidas hired them to make a short video on Libby doing her usual badass shit, climbing and nursing.

When Libby and I successfully climbed two routes on El Cap in a day I apologized for our time, as I had a ...um...emergency.  This time our mishaps included a forgotten tag-line at the base of Sheer Lunacy, requiring a quick barefoot run across the river and back.  One failed party passing, "we do don't that here!" regarding speed climbing in Zion.  Two core shot ropes, one we climbed the entirety of Moonlight Buttress.  Oh, and when we rapped Moonlight before climbing it and we passed over a team of 4 women.  It sure is nice to see chica's sending out there!!!

Full Value Friday----

Routes in order:
·        Spaceshot (5.7 C2 IV 800 feet)--2:40
·        Touchstone Wall (5.9 C2 V 820 feet)--2:02
·        Sheer Lunacy (5.9 C2 IV 1100 feet)--3:09
·        Moonlight Buttress (5.8 C1 V 1200 feet)--4:17