“Now if everyone would please, put their Nalgene as high as they can …
Man, I love hiking, ay!
I love camping, ay!
I love hiking, ay!
I love Odyssey, ay!”
More or less parodying Asher Roth’s “I Love College,” Kerran and Oliver’s skit at Camp O Rama was sort of well sung, not very well heard, but extremely entertaining nonetheless. Followed by men (and women!) in tights, climbing Olympics, a surprise head shaving, and ice cream galore, the Adirondack Backpacking trip set the tone for a ridiculous evening that celebrated the conclusion of Outdoor Odyssey 2009.
WHAM! I touch back down to the rocky trail front tire first, correcting my balance just in time to avoid going over my handlebars head-over-heals. After the jump, I take the next sharp right turn as the surrounding trees rush by, coalescing in to a kaleidoscope of green and brown as I hurtle down the trail. As I come up to the next obstacle, I grip my handlebars tighter and remind myself that I should be watching the trail, not admiring the scenery.
Just as this thought occurs, a huge splash of mud hits me full in the face. Great. Now I can’t see anything.
Keith returns the cap to the Dry Erase marker, looking up from the large notepad for the first time in minutes. His ever-present maniacal grin is noticeably absent from his face, his whole body seemingly reflecting the seriousness of what he had just laid before me. I stare at the elaborate series of drawings Keith has just produced: each page depicts multiple formulas, schematics and ratios, circled and crossed out in a dizzying array of red and blue marker. Each drawing has enormous red arrows that point to the title of his presentation: “Highlining Will Kill You”. After 45 minutes straight of lecturing, I get the point loud and clear. I shake my head in defeat.
“OK, maybe this is a bad idea”.
Rock climbing has historically had one golden rule: The leader must not fall. EVER. Not two feet, not 20 feet. You stay attached to the rock at all times, lest you land yourself in a world of trouble. 150 feet off the deck on an isolated cliff in the middle of West Virginia, I’m contemplating breaking this iron fast rule.
I yell down to my climbing partner Jeff: “I think I’m going to fall!” Jeff’s eyes go wide as he tightens his grip on the rope, his knuckles flashing white as he prepares to catch one big fall. Just as I’m about to break my tenuous grip with Mother Earth and go careening off into space, Jeff yells back: “Wait, don’t fall!”
It was pitch black out, even though the sun had barely set beyond the distant mountains. Dense cloud cover and even denser evergreens obscured the weak light of the quarter moon, making it nearly impossible to find secure footing on the slick rocks that studded the muddy trail. I had been hiking since 6 a.m. and now had no food, little water and was still three hours away from my car. I was beginning to regret not checking the batteries in my headlamp — the weak beam had faded away in to insignificance within minutes of switching it on, slowing my pace to a crawl as I squinted at my feet, making sure I wasn’t about to fall in to the winding Opalescent River.