Friday, October 6, 2017

Common ground.

I've spent a lot of time in and around Moab over the past 25 years.  That fact alone makes me feel unaccountably wealthy.  Maybe lucky is a better word.

Even if you've never been there, you likely 'get it'.  The unique geology and presence of desert, alpine, and river in such close proximity lends itself to all manner of outdoor recreation and exploration.  Virtually limitless potential for anyone with the ability to think outside the dots.

We've done countless single-day trips in the area -- literally driving there, playing on rock or in water, then driving home same day.  Not ideal, but sometimes that's all the window you have so you take advantage.  Going briefly beats not going at all, ya know?

There have also been innumerable weekend trips -- sometimes for a night, sometimes for two.  You get so much bang for your buck on these that it's difficult to *not* head home glowing.  I accidentally ripped 6 spokes out of a wheel once at the top of one of my favorite descents in Utah.  I subsequently walked, carried, and dragged my 35# bike for the next 4 miles to get out, and I still finished that day, and that trip, happy -- appreciative to have been out on the rock.

We've also done a number of multi-day and even week+ trips around Moab, riding, boating, combining the two, even backcountry skiing.  Camping under the stars, in windstorms, sandstorms, and snowstorms, while traversing vast chunks of landscape.

After decades of tripping to Moab for various objectives or no reason at all, this last weekend we found a new impetus: Hiding from copious and unseasonable rain and snow in Colorado.  We fled west looking for dry rock and moist sand.  We weren't alone.

In fact, we'd normally avoid Moab at all costs this time of year, because we (well, maybe it's just "I") have become increasingly crowd averse.  Unsurprisingly it was busy when we arrived, and the collective we were crammed onto very few trails -- the ones that most quickly shed the rain.

And, honestly, it was fine.  I don't relax much when repeatedly bumping into other people, but the bike riders, moto riders, and texas wheelchair jockeys we crossed paths with were all at least respectful: Just out enjoying themselves, same as us.  Can't ask for much more on multi-use motorized trails.

That said, the existence of mere tolerance should not, in my opinion, be 'enough' for any of us.  IMO thriving should be the goal, and feeling humbled and insignificant in wild places is, perhaps quixotically, my favorite means of achieving that.  I may be alone, but I do not, cannot thrive when what predominates is the sound of engines revving, tires spinning on rock, music blaring above all else.

Recreating around Moab is effectively the opposite of a wilderness experience.  You pretty much can't go there expecting one unless you're willing to make some compromises -- like leaving behind bikes, boats, and vehicles and going off-trail backpacking or ski mountaineering for a few days.  And even then you need a little luck on your side, because it's just that popular.

That said, it is impressive bordering on amazing that so many people can be outside recreating in close proximity, and (best I could tell) all getting along despite massive differences in the ways they choose to see and interact with the world.  Tolerance and cooperation don't equal a wilderness experience, but that doesn't make them any less remarkable these days.

Point simply being that I was surprised how much I was able to enjoy myself in the midst of masses of not-my-people.  

Can you blame me for concluding, admittedly from within the throes of an endorphin-soaked haze, that maybe we can all get along?

Probably not.  But maybe we aren't as divided as the cheeto in chief wants us to be.  Maybe we just need to spend more time on common ground.  Outside.

Against all rational explanation I want to believe that those whom would empower such a buffoon aren't so different from me.  Situationally, sure, but fundamentally?  No.

I don't know how else to reconcile where we are with where we seem to be heading.

Have a great weekend,


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