Our Pathfinders series is a collection of guest posts from Adventurers all around the world. If you'd like to contribute, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Today's post is by our friend Jeff Richards.
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings…”
This quote by John Muir is one I’m sure many of us have seen. Whether it is Facebook, Twitter, an actual book (on second thought, nah), or what have you, it is a fairly popular quote. More often than not it can be found just below a picture of a mountain on everyone’s favorite photo based social media: Instagram. While this is fine and dandy (it’s the internet, no one really cares, do what you want), what if there is more to this quote than just a cool pseudo-deep caption to your 1:1 cropped pictures? What if this is actually meant to be a suggestion, or rather an urge, and a guideline of sorts for how to live life?
Before I get too far ahead of myself, and since this is my first of hopefully many posts in the Pathfinder series, let me introduce myself. My name is Jeff Richards, I’m 19, I currently live in Boulder, Colorado after a brief stint in the Pacific Northwest, I’m going to be going to school in the fall for photography, which is a nice way of saying I
don’t know what I’m doing in life, and most importantly: I. LOVE. Mounains. While most guys my age are focused on getting a girlfriend, doing well in school (lets be real…nah), and seeing how much they can bench, I find myself far more concerned with when and how I’m going to get back into the mountains, and which mountain I will have a little climbing “date” with.
When I say that I love the mountains, rest assured, it goes way beyond just enjoying looking at them from a
distance and saying that they are pretty when the sun is setting behind them.For me, the mountains are much more than giant pieces of rock. To me, they are almost like a second home. I have spent so much time wandering through them, climbing them, and sleeping on them as of late that I almost feel just as comfortable
in the mountains than I do in my own house. Mountains are great for multiple reasons, probably too many to write about, but I’ll try to at least cover a few.
First, is that they are big, and you are small. Very small. Anyone who has every looked at a mountain knows that this is a fact. So why is it important if it’s just kind of something everyone knows? For starters, mountains put us in our place. Too often in our society, especially America, we get caught up in our own little bubbles, and begin to think that every thing is about, as small children put it: “Me! Me! Me!”. The simple act of standing in front of or on a mountain immediately takes away this sort of thinking. In the presence of something so massive, it becomes instantly clear that those small things that we worry about, think we need, annoy us, or frustrate
us, maybe don’t matter as much as we think we do. To put it simply: there is no entitlement or self-centeredness on a mountain.
Second is that they can help us find ourselves. As much as you think you can learn about yourself through a soul-searching college course, in my experience, you can learn a lot more by simply spending time in the mountains. Mountains present a challenge. Whether they are big or small, getting to the top of a mountain is no easy
task. In this time you spend toiling and hurting to reach the summit, you learn a lot about what you can do both physically and mentally.
You learn that you are stronger than you thought. You learn that the feel of a cool mountain breeze is more
life giving than a good grade, and you learn that the crunch of dirt and dried leaves under your feet is the sweetest song every made. You learn that although by many people’s standards you are out lost in the wilderness, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, quite the opposite is true: you’ve been found. The mountains
teach to focus and perseverance, they redefine your limits, and break the boundaries of determination. Standing on the summit, although you are out of breath, your legs are aching, your mouth is dry, and you’re not quite sure if the world is actually spinning, or if you just need to take a little break, you’ll find that you are as care and worry free as you have ever been. However, the mountains will not reward those who are content with seeing them at a distance. Viewing them from a car, or your house, and saying “I feel really refreshed and alive!” is like
owning a cat for a pet: it’s just dumb and doesn’t really make any sense.The third, and perhaps most appealing aspect of mountains, is that they are pure, raw, unadulterated beauty.
Mountains represent the best of the world. The contain forests, rivers, valleys, waterfalls, and animals all hidden within their slopes, and only by standing on the summit you will be able to experience them all. There is
nothing that in the natural world that can compare with the sheer variety and beauty of a mountain. There is also nothing in the man-made world that can compare. Mountains strip away everything human and leave only what was supposed to be there. They do not conform to what people say is beautiful, and they challenge you to try to capture their beauty in a single picture; let me warn you, this is a challenge you won’t win, and if you somehow do win, please let me know, because I’ll probably pay you to show me your ways. This is not all to say that you must stand on top of a mountain to experience this beauty, but it is to say you are only cheating yourself by staying at the base and not venturing up.Whether you are caught up in your own self-importance and the aches and pains of
the world, you are lost in the world and can’t quite figure out who you are, or you need a beautiful escape: Climb the mountains and get their good tiding.