Anybody who knows me knows that I am anything but an outdoorsman. I much prefer concrete to grass, buildings to trees, and the noise and bustle of a city to the quiet and stillness of nature. My idea of a hike is what the quarterback barks when he wants the ball snapped to him. To me, the most interesting thing about a kayak is that it is a palindrome, and I’d much rather stare into a television set than a campfire. I once cheekily asked a worker in Cabela’s where the fiction section was. He didn’t find it funny. Having spent a half hour in that store, I learned what my personal hell would be.
With that said, however, I have shared each of those experiences and other adventures with four of my very best friends, my Adirondack Pack, because they are my friends and for some ungodly reason they seem to enjoy such excursions. I’ve long believed the true measure of a person is taken by the quality of those s/he can rightly call “friends.” And if I’m correct, the friendship of Del Culver, Seth Benner, John Cornell, and Pat Adkins render me one of the most fortunate of souls.
Why Adirondack Pack? Because John, who once taught and coached in Port Clinton, is a state trooper in upstate New York, where he is raising his amazing daughter, Molly (who is an unofficial 6th member of the pack) and his two adopted foster children as a single parent. It’s probably obvious that it’s much more difficult for John to come to us than the reverse. John is also trained in outdoor education and has mad outdoor skills, and those he doesn’t possess, he’s very good at pretending that he does, which has brought me a modicum of comfort on several occasions while traipsing (a word only an English major would use to describe a hike) through bear country, while Pat occasionally barks, “Hey, Bear. Hey, Bear,” which completely freaks me out.
Pat is another true outdoorsman. He loves that shit. He especially loves his equipment and his theoretically ready-to-eat camping meals. Trust me, there is not enough time left in the world for those to ever be “ready-to-eat.” He has more gear than I have excuses to not go camping. When the others picked me up for our last trip into the bush, the SUV was stuffed with Pat’s gear. My pack was literally a bookbag – with a book in it, a bath towel, a pocket knife that couldn’t cut through butter, and a change of clothes or two. I think they only invite me for comic relief and the existential conversations I like to spark around the aforementioned campfire. Pat and John act as my surrogate parents on our trips. They make sure I don’t do anything stupid to hurt myself or anybody else, which I greatly appreciate.
Seth and Del are kind of like my big brothers on our excursions; although, I’m the oldest one in the group. They cut me little slack and seem to enjoy some of my city slicker ignorance that once resulted in my near freezing to death in a lean-to because I don’t own a sleeping bag rated for Mt. Everest like the rest of them. I think I once used my kid’s old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle sleeping bag, but turned it inside out so they wouldn’t know. With that said, they both would give me anything they own should I really need it. In addition, no one tells a better story than Seth, and there is no better brown-liquor-sipping buddy in the world than Del.
As for the Adirondacks, if you follow my blogs, you know my affinity for the word sublime. The mountains and meadows, lakes and streams are truly sublime. Their majesty is truly beyond the capability of words to express, and they have had a way of providing me with an occasional course correction when I’ve begun to overestimate my place in the universe or the problems with which I’m confronted. Like my Adirondack Pack, they’ve made me a better man for knowing them, and I look forward to the day we are all reunited once more, especially because my wife bought me a new sleeping bag for Christmas!
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