A Relentless Life
Recently I was asked to go on a combination moose hunt and sightseeing excursion to Palmer Alaska. The moose hunt would require hard four wheel ATV travel for 3 miles and difficult hiking for 3 miles to a hunting camp. We would be required to carry everything we need. That included shelter, water filters, food, clothing and hunting gear. We could be required to shoot and potentially stalk a 1500–2000 pound animal. We would then have to field dress it, and pack the meat and our equipment out. Tuhon Harley Elmore, who invited Lisa and I, described it as very difficult. He had been years previous and while the trips were worthwhile challenges, they had not yet killed a moose. He invited us and then said,” if you come, be ready.”
I speak regularly about the need to challenge ourselves. I talk about the forging power of hardship. I also bring up how shared hardship builds bonds. I couldn’t say no.
It is one thing to prepare for an event that might happen. It is another thing altogether to prepare for something with a date. It is like saying “I will get married someday” versus saying “I will get married on June 19th.” The intensity difference between “I might want to take a Muay Thai match” and “I fight on November 12th” is orders of magnitude. When you place a challenge and a date on an event such as this, it becomes real.
This trip of around one week was amazing. Alaska is a magnificent place to see. The scale of it amazes. That mountain “over there about 500 yards” turns out to be miles away. Things that are normally easy take much more effort because of the isolation of much of the state. It really is like living in a different country. In one of the native tongues, Alaska means “Great Land.” That is not an overstatement.
After a long flight, our team of hunters came together. The team was made of some of Tuhon Harley’s longtime friends. Most of our spouses came to sightsee during our journey and afterward. The hunters were Tuhon Harley, Greg Macpherson, Bobby Nash and me. Although I grew up in the country, I was the least capable hunter of the group. We loaded up mid-morning and headed up the mountain.
Our friend and host, Jonathan Jester, had gotten hurt seriously 2 weeks prior to our trip. This meant he could not do much of the preparation that he had done for the group in years past. He said that the four wheeler portion was the only part that he was concerned with.
Jonathan is so much of an optimist he makes me look like Debbie Downer.
The four wheeler trip up the mountain was challenging. Two men were riding on each four wheeler. Often the passenger would have to dismount in order for the driver to get up the very steep hill or through mud that was of uncertain depth. This portion of the trip was 3 miles.
The next part was the hike. All of us tried to limit the weight of our packs to 40 lbs. I don’t think any of us made that goal. The terrain was like a 70-degree incline in many spots. The trails were like a 50 yard steep river bank. They were composed of slick black mud and silt. Sometimes you would just slide down 5 feet when we had just made it up 4 feet. We started talking about it as if we were running sprints. “Just make it to the next light pole.” “Just make it to the next mailbox.” We would make our next objective and rest some. It was a very demanding hike.
Camping is not hunting. Hunting is not camping. We made a hunters camp. It was not designed for comfort. It was designed to keep us comfortable enough to hunt effectively.
Water was a 30 minute walk down a mountain, 30 minutes of pumping from a mossy bog and 30 minutes walking up the mountain.
If you didn’t have the right gear, the right preparation and the right mindset, the first night could have driven you off. Hard rain, temperatures in the 30s and over 20 mile per hour winds on a mountain top in bear country can keep an Oklahoma boy awake. There were some laughs that first night as Tuhon asks me, “what do you think of this?” We both started laughing.
The next day we struggled to get on the hunt before dawn. Hunting is not a team sport but when a member of your team shoots a moose within two hours of setting up, cleaning, and moving that moose is a team activity. At least for us.
A 1500 pound animal yields 500 pounds of meat after 2 days of skinning, and field dressing the animal. This meat (and its component parts) had to be moved from the site of the kill to an area that was safer from bears but not on top of our camp.
The site of the kill was 600 yards or so in as the crow flies but 1.5 miles of walking up and down hills through scrub brush. So out and back several times for supplies as well as to carry 80-100 pounds of meat to this staging area.
In the two days after we got the moose, there was a time for each of us when we thought we had met our limit. We would look at the group. That look would reset us. It would bolster our hearts.
There were some incredible stories about the trip that I can tell. We were met with challenges at every turn. The more important part, at least for me, is the remarkable men I went with and the bonds that this trip built.
At one of the most critical parts of the trip, Tuhon Harley asked me what I felt like. I said “If none of us go the hospital, this is still an amazing adventure.” And it was.
My wife and I grew up camping and have continued that tradition with our family and friends. We prefer tents, but others like campers, or RVs. There’s not a wrong way to camp, but there are many great reasons to go.
1. Camping changes your focus.
When you are camping, your focus is your family. Not your cell phone, emails, or the next big streaming series.
This frees up time for you and your loved ones to explore the world. You will entertain each other with games that require motion (hiking, tag, swimming) or interaction. Some of our best talks with our kids have been while hiking or sitting in front of a campfire.
2. Camping gives you a new environment.
A new environment, especially being in nature, helps the focus shift. Rules relax and schedules slow down. This may mean it’s okay to let the kids stay up a little bit. It could mean having the second S’mores is not that big a deal. The change of environment also allows for us to learn and reinforce lessons about life. In a smaller space, like a tent, we must keep it cleaner/neater. Because we are in a separate environment, we listen to each other a little differently. We can use this more relaxed time to reinforce lessons from home.
Being in nature, we discover she does not play favorites. Leaving your shoes in the floor at the house is just messy. Leaving your shoes outside the tent in a rainstorm creates a natural consequence of wet shoes. No amount of sweetness and politeness will convince mother nature not to smack you down.
3. Camping is an adventure.
The novelty of being outside for days at a time excites the child and explorer in all of us. If everyone has a reason to go and starts with a positive attitude, the trip can create great bonds. Many times, just being outside and breathing in fresh air can change our attitude. Just give it a few hours.
4. Camping slows the pace.
Because of the change of focus and new environment, families end up spending more quality time during a weekend of camping than many do in a month. The short-term camping experience makes things like a meal outside or game more enjoyable. Remember to relax and give everyone a little breathing room.
The outdoors gives us all room to grow.
5. Camping is a shared hardship.
You won’t have every creature comfort when you go camping – and that’s ok. Our family’s goal is to pack as little as possible when we camp, so we have fewer things to worry about or keep track of. Every camping trip brings the challenge of something being forgotten, something being broken, and learning to deal with each other in tight spaces and in times where there’s nothing else to do. Your kids (and you) learn to improvise and make up new games or activities to share. Boredom breeds creativity.
“Do you remember that time that….”
Think of the stories that you tell when your extended family gathers. There are stories of wonderful summers, incredible ski trips, and great holidays. In my family, most of the stories are about times that were difficult. Times we persevered and pushed through together. These shared hardships bind us together in ways that are unique to our family. These stories become part of the fabric of our history that our children will share with their own families.
People have been living outside for all of creation. Make a list, grab a tent, and go outside. Happy camping.
By most people’s estimation, last year was an unusual year. Distance learning and Zoom meetings were not a “normal part” of most people’s lives just 18 months ago. Most people got a moment to evaluate what they were doing and how important certain meetings and relationships are. This was a time to prioritize ourselves and how we make things happen.
These are the things that I felt that I learned from the situations created by last year:
1) You can’t prepare for an emergency that is happening now. If you remember the toilet paper shortage of 2020, you realize that several thousand people realized all at once, that they had not stockpiled enough supplies for an event that occurs for most people on a pretty regular basis. So if you are not in crisis now, begin budgeting to buy a few more items than you need to run the household. This can be as small as a couple cans and an extra package of toilet paper. Don’t wait until everyone else realizes the need. This also includes training and skills. You don’t learn to pilot a plane when it is crashing. It is possible but hard. You may have learned to cook, or food prep, or harvest food during this pandemic but it would have been easier with a head start.
2) Fitness is important to many and you have to rely on yourself to maintain it. Gyms were closed. Instructors all relied on digital platforms to get information out but there was a different accountability when you could not just meet your friend at the gym or for a run. Home gyms became a serious thing. Some people got serious about fitness and realized that it had strong links to health especially as applied to COVID.
3) Family matters. This is not just the people you are genetically linked to but the people that you choose to be in your closest circle. Family time in the form of walks, hikes, family game night and front porch time became more regular. Is this still happening in your family? Can you sit down for a meal a day to communicate and break bread with the people in your household? Do you talk to the people you love on a regular basis? When there is trouble, they are the ones that stand with you. Actively create those bonds. Don’t leave them to chance.
4) Have an emergency fund: Start now. Save your stimulus check for when you need funds to buy food for the house, the refrigerator goes out or the car breaks down. The stimulus help and other funding will come months after you need them. Start setting aside money to help for the “rainy day.” Crises happen regularly. They are only emergencies if you aren’t prepared for them. Money is a great way to be prepared.
Mostly what I learned was that having the wisdom to prepare for a long term event and the discipline to do it pays off. You must rely on yourself and a close knit group of people to help you through these times. Do you have these people in your life? We work on helping people make these connections and build these skills to prepare them for what life can throw at them. If you want to take steps to being more capable, contact us, because helping people and building them up is what we do.
1. Stick to a routine. Get up and go to bed at the same time every day.
2. Get Dressed. Pajamas are great occasionally but getting dressed and “ready” is good for your mind.
3. Get out at least once a day, for at least thirty minutes. Backyard, around the block? Move and get some fresh air.
4. Reach out to others. What a great opportunity to talk to/text people you have been missing in your life.
5. Stay hydrated and eat well. Junk food is junk. As much as you can, practice self-care with nourishing food and fresh water.
6. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Stress affects us all differently. Show some grace and be kind to one another.
7. Lower expectations. This is not an ideal situation; we will need to be flexible and patient. But we can do this.
8. Notice the good in the world, the helpers. And also – be a helper. Write notes, support local businesses – offer to shop for someone if you are able.
9. Reach out for help—RMA is here for you. Call us, reach out on social media, or visit the website. You are not alone.
10. Remember that this is temporary. Hard times make great stories. One day, you will share these stories of grit and coming together with your kids, grandkids or students.