Meeting the Team - Beyond the Book
"No man has any business to go on such a trip as ours unless he will refuse to jeopardize the welfare of his associates by any delay caused by a weakness or ailment of his." - Theodore Roosevelt, on the River of Doubt
Solo trips are important personal learning experiences, but having an adventure with friends is almost always better. In Willingness to Wander I describe how every group should have an Enthusiast, an Expert, a Sandbag, a Realist, and sometimes a Newbie. Here is my beloved team, with our titles and a description of the characters that I have come to love like brothers (except one of them actually is my brother). Every amazing trip I have been on has been shared with these guys, and we are hoping for many more. Without further adieu - here is the team!
Andrew, The Enthusiast:
Andrew, or Andy as everyone else likes to call him, has been described as one word; persistent (although my father likes to tag on ‘little bastard’ making it three words). Persistent is a demeaning word for describing, what I think, is a noble characteristic. I believe persistence is regularly mistaken for determination, enthusiasm, and passion - and those are the qualities that define Andy.
Without Andy, my book would not have been written, this blog would not have been created, and I would not call myself backpacker, a writer, or a photographer. It was Andy who originally rallied the gang, and was the first to propose an idea that ultimately changed my life; “a crazy, cross country trip.” That trip came to fruition almost entirely due to the characteristics described above. He was determined to hit every park along the route, climb the most dangerous mountains, and explore the largest wilderness areas the country had to offer, and he did just that. His verve and vigor were contagious, and soon he had a ragtag group of old lost friends and a stubborn brothers agreeing to join the endeavour.
Andy’s spirit during the trip was intoxicating. He non-stop suggested new ideas, trails, mountains, and occasionally restaurants, to subjugate. He did all of the original organization for the trip, he volunteered to study the routes and parks we planned on visiting, and learned the ins and outs of our entire expedition - it was quite the undertaking.
It was a trip that changed my life. When we returned, I was a better person, more confident, more patient, and more thoughtful than I had ever been. I credit my happiness and the success of the trip entirely to Andrew. It simply would not have happened without him.
During one of our trips, Andy suggested that we summit a mountain that I clearly was nervous about undertaking. I asked him why we needed to climb that particular mountain and he responded with something I will never forget, he said; “If I can conquer mountains, I can conquer men.” I never did get to the top of that mountain, but you better believe Andrew stood confidently on it's peak, and looked at the world below with fervor.
Juan, The Expert:
Fake it ‘till you make it, is a common saying as advice to bolster confidence in an unfamiliar setting until you have gauged the situation long enough to make informed decisions for yourself. Juan must have heard the tip while he was coming into this world, because I have never seen someone put that particular advice into action as well as Juan. He walks into any situation with the utmost confidence and composure, relying on nothing but his instincts, his boyish charm, and his devilishly good looks to get him by, and I have not seen him fail yet.
Using this strategy and his myriad of other interesting talents, he is truly capable and helpful in any situation. Not only that, but Juan always, instantly, and compulsively, jumps to action, making him absolutely invaluable as an adventure partner, but more importantly, as a friend.
Juan’s cheery disposition, his lust for knowledge, and his prescribed passion for all things left a major imprint on my impressionable character and psyche. Juan’s ability to find joy in all things is admirable, and regularly kept the gang’s moral high. Juan is a womanizer, (but in the least whoreson way) he is minimally intimidating, and entirely approachable, making him lovely and entertaining company for all. He is absolutely pleasurable to be around, like that great friend that comes to town only once a year, and you wish more than anything to be able to spend just one more hour with them.
Micaiah, The Sandbag:
Michaiah, or Mikey, Mik, Mikky, Mack, Mike, Mackey, Mite, Mittey, (I think even Mark for a whole week) as we call him, is an enigma. I am not even going to pretend to know what is going on in his head. He is neither polite nor boorish, neither nice nor mean spirited, neither confident nor feeble, but somehow encompuses all of these attributes at the same time at every waking moment. It is absolutely fascinating to study Mikey’s reactions to stimuli of all kinds, and that exact observation is exactly what kept me sane through hours and hours of driving across the states and country. I could never figure him out. He reacted differently, always, in every instance, to every situation - a true definition of a wildcard.
Mikey is both our strongest hiker and our weakest hiker. He almost always, leads the way out of the wildernesses but will always be last while going in. At some points, he steams so far ahead, that he would have to wait for hours before we caught up to him; other times would be the exact opposite. Mikey is always riddled with some new, uncomfortable, medical complication, but it never once slowed him down, or stopped him from accepting our invitation to explore. Mikey wants to see it all, but has never suggested a personal request for a park, trail, or even state that he wants to visit - he simply accepts the plans laid out before him without the slightest hint confrontation or criticism.
Mikey is like a piece of modern art, everyone who looks at him gets something different out of the experience. Some find it off-putting, others, myself included, find it genuinely endearing, some find it genius, and some see nothing. Also like modern art, Mikey is impossible to explain to individuals who are just not ready to understand.
To summarize Mikey, I would like to offer his exact response to a question posed to him after completing a seven day, seventy mile back country trek. He was asked “Wow, that is some trip, what did you think about it?”, Mikey, while giving a half interested slight shrug, said “It was cool, yeah.” and that was soberly and modestly the end of conversation.
Alex, The Realist (Me):
As author, creator, writer, and photographer of almost all of the content on this blog and in the book Willingness to Wander, when it came to time describe myself, I just couldn’t do it. So I asked the aforementioned character above, Mikey, to write one for me. I got a response from him a week later; here it is:
There you have it. A perfect description of myself from someone I have spent more than 50 nights backpacking with, hiked more than 500 miles with, trusted my actual life with on occasion, and have known for most of my life.