It’s been a sad week for my SoCal hiking family. While I did not know those that perished personally, I know others that are overcome with grief and sorrow. With so many of my fellow hikers hurting and knowing that our community has lost some amazing people, I am hurting too.
When something like this happens, I know that my friends and family will have questions for me; I can always count on someone asking “why do you do what you do… why take those risks?” I’ve always struggled to put my reasoning into words, but with this tragedy hitting so close to home, I’ve spent parts of the last 3 days desperately trying to organize my thoughts into something coherent.
While the activities I participate in have inherent risks, the dangers do not outweigh the benefits. Personally, I know that I need hiking and the experiences, lessons and healing it brings. Outside of the awe-inspiring beauty I am privileged to see as a hiker, I believe there is a less apparent and beneficial byproduct of the time I spend outdoors. As I struggle with the obvious physical challenges, I often deal with a silent, internal struggle; fighting those inevitable feelings of self-doubt, weakness and inadequacy that come when I push my limits. It goes unsaid, but I know others have these same feelings and I believe we can see it in one another; though we may struggle ourselves, we do all we can to help each other. Through the struggle, as well as the beauty we experience together, an amazing bond is created between us. These moments have taught me invaluable things about myself and those I choose to hike with.
Although I may swear off voluntarily putting myself through these situations, I know I will be back. I know that pushing myself and overcoming these obstacles gives me the strength and perseverance I need to deal with everyday life. The lessons learned and bonds formed with my fellow hikers help me become a better, stronger person, but at the same time, they are also what makes it so difficult when a fellow hiker loses their life on the trail, whether I knew them or not.
“It’s surreal to hear about vibrant people you know losing their lives.
Though I feel some small piece of a greater grief shared by those closest to these seven, I find that there is some small comfort in the bit of an unspoken creed between outdoors-people.
It’s a creed that we live by: we go to the wild places to touch a primal part of who we are. We go out to sweat under the sun, to lean upon the mountains, to fight against gravity. We go out to test our fears, to sigh at our weaknesses, and remind ourselves that we can do far more than civilization demands from us. We think and walk, we meet with others on high, but we always do so with intent to be smart and come home.
Sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we crash against our limits, and sometimes bad things transpire at an unfortunate time.
Yet death never comes for the hiker, kayaker, jumper or mountaineer on death’s terms. If it comes, it comes while we were doing what we loved, it came out of valiant effort.
Though tragedy is terrible, it is important to remember that these were beautiful and strong people out to taste beauty through trial. No matter what, we will not look at the death of a hiker as a pitiful helpless slipping away. It came and we will remember these people for what they were: strong, willful, and loved.
We will do our best to learn and be safe.
We will remember them through tears, comforted that they lived life on strong terms.
We will miss you Mark, Linda, Steve, Gary, Muku, Robin, and Don.
May your skies be blue, your paths be clear, your horizon rugged, and your breathing deep. Be safe out there everyone.”
– Joseph Gregory – https://instagram.com/
For anyone that would like to help some of the families involved in this tragedy, please see the following websites: