Near the end of a long and challenging day of hiking during a recent camp site scouting trip, my hiking partner suggested we jump into a high mountain lake.
“I don’t jump in glacial lakes,” I proclaimed. “They are way too cold!”
In all of my years of hiking and backpacking, it’s true, I have never jumped into a lake at high elevation. Even though my companions seem to revel in the exhilaration they experience from the frigid jolt. I always take off my socks and shoes and stand in the water, mid-calf deep near the bank, but refuse to venture any further.
I like to tell myself that I’m resisting peer pressure, but really I’m just being afraid.
“So you’re telling me that if you found yourself lying in a hospital bed tomorrow, not knowing if you were going to make it, you’d be satisfied that you chose not to jump into this lake?”
Well, no one had ever put it to me like that. I promptly pulled off my socks and shoes and ran into the lake. What had I been so afraid of all this time? It was indeed freezing, and all of the air felt as though it was being sucked from my body — but it was invigorating, and only lasted a few moments.
As I lay on the bank of the lake, soaking in the sunshine and feeling remarkably satisfied, I began recounting all of the outdoor excursions I’ve been on that have pushed my limits in one way or another.
Not only have these experiences seared themselves magnificently into my memory, they have also made for the best campfire stories. How is it that I have been so fortunate as to happen upon all of the marvelous adventures in my life?
It is because I learned a trick, purely by chance, in my late teens: Go adventuring with people who have more advanced skills, strength and stamina than you do. They’ll push you to be your best and attain feats you didn’t think you were capable of.
I advise everyone who reads this to seek out these kinds of friends in life — ones who will push you beyond where you’re comfortable going, especially in your pursuit of outdoor adventure.
Of course, one clearly needs to maintain a healthy balance between striving for constant personal enhancement and taking less experienced people outside and encouraging them to expand their horizons.
I have found one of the most rewarding methods of accomplishing this is by working with any number of local organizations that get our youth into the out-of-doors. Prior to working at the college, (where I am exceptionally fortunate because getting people of all ages outside is my job), Big Brothers Big Sisters, Science Kids, the Sheridan Recreation District and Joey’s Fly Fishing Foundation all afforded me opportunities to lead local youth in outdoor activities.
The rewards that accompany paying it forward truly exceed any joy one can get from personal achievement.
Back at the mountain lakeside — No sooner had I freed myself from the icy water, not yet even having praised myself for the accomplishment, than my friend was pushing me back toward the edge of the lake, “Again, we’re doing it again!”
Julie Davidson is the director of Learn Outdoors at Sheridan College.