Fist-fulls of change, hard-boiled egg shells and google maps printouts comprise the majority of the refuse littering the floor of my car. As anyone who has ever ridden with me knows, entry to my car usually involves a brief waiting period pending consolidation of items strewn throughout the backseat. Today, a climbing harness, grocery sacks of damp clothes, some ratchet straps and several spindles of CD’s would be the main barrier of entry.
The unseasonably tolerable Sunday summer air in my Georgia neighborhood echoes with the sounds of familiar Illinois voices as Kentucky Knife Fight pumps from the speakers in my four ajar doors. My thoughts turn to their and other voices from home while I categorize, compartmentalize and cast away some of my car’s contents in preparation for the next cargo laden exodus to a new region of the country.
I never really unpacked to begin with. Boxes half full and ransacked litter the floor of what has been my home for the last four months. Duffle bags of clothes unworn sit upon closet shelves and books unread grow flatter daily under their own weight… still packed and stacked in plastic bins that will leave tell-tale rings like crop circles in the carpet on my bedroom floor.
Soon these crates and bins will find themselves thousands of miles northwest. Though perhaps this time the cold Montana winters will afford me the time to explore their contents more fully.
My summer has been spectacular. I’ve been busy as all get out, but I’ve managed to run many of the great classic rivers of the Southeast in all manner of watercraft. I’ve piloted rafts, canoes and kayaks down many rapids, and even swam a few.
In solitude I hiked and explored a classic North Georgian wilderness area where a prison escapee once lived for 6 years undetected, and discussed the finer points of assessing the potency of backwoods Tennessee hooch with a Cocke county resident in the moonshine capital of the world.
I planned a trip to Yosemite National Park and helped to guide eight participants as the first team to explore its southern high-country this year. Replete with blizzards, icy river crossings and all manner of backcountry techniques it was the very definition of an adventure. I led a group of six participants on an ocean journey off the cost of North Carolina in waters once pirated by Blackbeard. Each morning we awoke to living vestiges of his pillaging as wild horses, descendants of those that swam ashore in the wake of his destruction of merchant ships, grazed near our tents.
My experiences in the office at Georgia State have been just as nurturing as my experiences in the field. I’ve assisted in various projects from polishing off an $80,000.00 bouldering cave project with new hold selections and surveillance, to hand picking nearly 50 tents to replace the current rental inventory. I’ve created some new avenues for marketing and exposure for the program, and even taught a backpacking skills clinic.
I often post photos, blogs, or comments online about my various activities, trips and projects. Yet these are not boasts or bragadocious self-congratulatory exhibitions of my endeavors. They are thank yous, and gestures of appreciation to all those who have been so instrumental in bringing these experiences within my reach.
Throughout this summer internship, each and every day, my thoughts have turned several times a day to all those who have encouraged, contributed and sacrificed to make this happen. So many people in my life have done so much to get me here. From the encouragement and assistance of my family, to the kind and inspirational words and lives of my friends I would not be here if it were not for a veritable team of people in my life. Certainly I would not have had this opportunity were it not for my great friend Carson and his excellent administration of this program along side his generosity in allowing me to stay in his home. Similarly, I look forward to sharing a house with Matt in Missoula in just a few short weeks when I take him up on his hospitable offer to be a housemate.
Things will get harder after this summer. For the first time in 11 years I will be without a job. I’ll be focusing upon school, and on further realizing this dream that until recently was only visible in my mind’s eye. Yet, I am more confident than ever that I am on the right path. It’s a confidence that is a luxury granted by the unwavering support of friends and family hand-in-hand with my acknowledgment that the opportunities that have been laid before me, and the people whose paths have crossed mine are not accidental, nor are they earned. They are gifts; and I take none of them for granted.