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.