Do it now

In the past week I’ve seen a noteworthy uptick in orders for Packrafting the Crown of the Continent, which is cool, because it would seem to mean that folks are planning for a future which allows for bigger dreams.  Escapism, and as I mentioned the other day, familiarity are powerful attractants in the face of uncertainty.  I’ve been using the past week to dwell on the longer standing trips which have been living in my mind undone, in some cases for years, even decades.  They seem to fit into two categories with only a little kicking and massaging; trips for which I’ve been building either skills or time, and trips I just haven’t prioritized.   In quite a few cases I’ve been waiting on certain conditions; running the lower Escalante River, for instance, can’t be done just any time or year (though I remain convinced there are more and broader windows than conventional wisdom suggests).  With plenty of time to consider, it is easy to see that wanting good conditions has for itself often turned into a sort of pureism.  Knowing how singular the first trip into a new and profound place can be, I’ve gotten into what is almost a habit of holding back for close to perfect conditions.

There is something to be said for doing that.  There is also a lot to be said for just doing it, without excessive regard for practicality.  Back in the day, when the landscape poverty of growing up in Ohio still lay heavy on me, I rarely lacked for keenness in the face of conditions or long drives.  When it again becomes responsible to travel widely, I am determined to go back to being a bit less measured when it comes to planning.


At the start of our time in Moab years ago I made a list of canyons and routes I wanted to see, and one of the very few left undone is the Long-Gravel loop from Steve Allen’s Canyoneering 2.  There were plenty of excuses back in the day, relating to being less dialed on multidays, as well as more recently, due to not wanting to haul too much insulation for the extended water sections.  Both things which, in hindsight, I struggle to be patient with.

Another route I’ve been holding in reserve for reasons which currently seem thin is the Canadian section of the North Fork of the Flathead.  There are a lot of roads up there, and because of that I’ve wanted to thread the needle between when the river starts to run well enough that ice bridges should no longer be an issue, but well before road access is possible.  Skiing in from the east has always looked fun and stylish.  With the window opening in a week or so, this year is obviously not the year.  Perhaps, alternately, the fat snowpack will keep water levels up in the early fall, when the uppermost part of the US Flathead is for me at its most beautiful.


A longstanding idea which is tentatively on the docket is a high line across the northwest corner of the Yaak, hoping lookout tower to tower.  The six month reservation overlaps here with the most contemplative part of January, and hopefully the first days of open lookouts in late June will see us all back further in the woods, with a new appreciation for this moment.


9 responses to “Do it now”

  1. I like the sound of that Yaak high traverse.

  2. North Fork Flathead sounds fun. Get in touch if you’re in need of more people, whatever year it happens.

    Looking forward to the Tamarisk.

  3. Funny. I’ve been spending my time looking for a used packraft. I’m laid off from my guiding job for what I’m assuming will be a year, stuck in a small town in Upstate NY with no inspiring nature. But we’ve got a good creek running through town that features a variety of changing conditions and curves just enough to make the put in and take out walkable. Figure this is the time to learn it so I can do it when now returns.

  4. I chalk much of it off to age and responsibilities and just general slowing down (not that I don’t fight these things pretty hard), but I too have been wondering about what happened to the person that used to readily jump into a car alone for some horrendous drive and an adventure in a place I had never been. If anything, I likely have more time and ability than ever before before…

    “There is also a lot to be said for just doing it, without excessive regard for practicality. Back in the day, when the landscape poverty of growing up in Ohio still lay heavy on me, I rarely lacked for keenness in the face of conditions or long drives. When it again becomes responsible to travel widely, I am determined to go back to being a bit less measured when it comes to planning.”

    Loud and clear.

  5. Good thoughts Dave.
    I’ve admired your ability to wait on an experience to ensure you get it “right” the first time.

    On the other hand I’ve taken sort of the opposite approach. I love my situation in Alaska but its somewhat “precarious.” Its not that my job is in danger or I don’t like it. It is just that if my job situation DID change I’d probably have to move. So I’ve been trying to pack in as many experiences as possible. Summer is crazy, I’m out basically every weekend between May and late September. At some point I’ll have to slow down but if I ever leave Alaska I don’t want any regrets.

    Now that we are shut down as well I’m glad I maxed out my time with adventures last year. I can still get out for local hunts but I can’t go see a lot of my adventure pals. Could be an interesting summer.

  6. Oops I did not complete the thought.

    There seems to be a cycle. I learn a new sport and pursue it until the excitement plateaus then look for something else. I’d say my favorite parts of an activity are the first experience such as my first time packrafting etc. This is followed (and occasionally superceded) by my last major experience of an activity.

    I think my approach is to blunder/rush into something just to start learning. After a messy start I refine technique and focus in on a particular goal. After working up to that goal my interest tends to drop off. For UL backpacking it was hiking a big trail. I did the CT and then lost interest in a bigger thru hike. For packrafting it was a particular trip that never happened. But I did enough trips in Canada that I felt I’d ticked that box. It will be interesting where I am in a few years. Hunting is the last major outdoor goal that I haven’t really put years of effort into. I wonder if I’ll slow down after some hunting or find completely new hobbies.

    1. I wonder about this. Over the years I’ve done a lot of serial learning, and that approach has let me take a lot of specific knowledge from one pursuit to another, and that diversity has been valuable. On the other, I wonder how hasty I’ve been. Hard to say if it is age or the backcountry which has given me a better appreciation for nuance and finer details.

  7. […] variety of trees.  There is a consistent tension between reserving the unknown for the future and seizing the moment in the name of uncertainty.  What cuts across that whole debate is that beta should be approached […]

  8. […] still like to go, and the ways I might fit those trips into the next 12 months.  My resolution from the beginning of the pandemic has only grown stronger, after a summer of a few intensely memorable trips within a […]

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