As my freshman year at the University of Tennessee ended, my planning for the summer had landed me a job working in the Lake Yellowstone Hotel in Yellowstone National Park.
Almost immediately after moving out of my dorm room I found myself driving 2,000 miles to Wyoming where I would live for three months- working, hiking, climbing, and making some of the best friends I’ve ever had. My Yellowstone friends and I hiked over 200 miles of trails in Yellowstone and the Tetons during our first two months out West. But, upon the realization of my massive “must hike,” “must try,” and “cannot go home without doing this” lists, two close friends and myself left our jobs to backpack for the final month of our summer.
From spending four days at the International Climbers’ Festival in Lander, WY to hiking Yellowstone and Teton backcountry day after day, our decision to leave our jobs was the best we had ever made. Ramen noodles, Van Camp’s pork and beans, and plain ‘ol rice (cheap tastes good) became our three staples. Our wanderings had no set schedule, but we were always on the move- hitting campsite after campsite.
Of course, there had to be a highlight of the trip- climbing Grand Teton. Climbing the Teton was one of the goals that I had set for myself months before I arrived in Wyoming, so standing on top after a day and a half of up up up was by far the most accomplished feeling that I had all summer. Needless to say after the climb my to-do list for the summer was more than satisfied.
Now, I’m back at the University of Tennessee and training for the Great Pacific Race.
I have enjoyed the life of full-time Environmental Science student, part-time training athlete more than I can say. Having a goal such as ours has given me motivation unlike any I have ever felt before. I am so used to the short-term motivation of working a climbing route for a day or two until I hit that final move, or planning a long hike that I will be done with after twenty or thirty miles. I’m used to having projects that come and go, immediately moving on to the next thing.
Planning and training for this row is a new kind of challenge for me. I am preparing for something that is seldom done- especially in this country and even more so at my age (currently 19). As the weeks go on and we become more physically and mentally prepared for our upcoming adventure, I am becoming increasingly obsessed with the idea of the journey.
It is going to be hellish I’m sure, but I will love it all. I am no longer working towards that last hold on a rock face, but working towards the last 1000, 500, and the final mile of this epic row.