The calendar ticked over to September this week. September signals the best time for trail running and the end of the moderate to high altitude climbing season in mainland USA. I didn't spend any time in the mountains this summer. Not even one hike. I have spent at least a few days in the mountains every summer since I think 1998. Even 2007 when I spent the summer in central Massachusetts researching I spent days in New Hampshire climbing and hiking. What does this have to do with my friends?
I have many friends. Many of my friends I have met because of similar interests in the outdoors, such as climbing, running, hiking, backpacking, and camping. My summers in the mountains have served me as a place of relaxation and inner competition and celebration of life, that I just do not get in the flatlands the same way. I have friendships that have developed in the mountains at camps and on trips that are totally appreciative of the world in a way that most city dwellers just do not have. Hundreds of times I have been standing outside in the mountains in the summer watching the sun go down drinking hot chocolate with my friends so grateful for my life.
Don't think that my other relationships are built on something less, some of my best friends have never spent even a drive through the mountains with me. It is that the mountains have a simplicity and honesty and seriousness that gets lost in town. Out on a climb four miles from the nearest road and 400 feet off the ground with a climbing partner life is so simple. The worries of bills and obligations fade away. You can not hide your true self from anyone else or yourself. You can call it self discovery but I feel it is more like self acknowledgement.
I feel that one of the big things I am searching for is authenticity. The whole story including the bad not just the good. The number of revelations that my friends have told me in the mountains, for whatever reason, is astounding. I've had conversations about rape, criminal histories, drug abuse, pain, fear (which is often a can of worms), goals, and God. Perhaps part of it is because I have moved around so much the last two years that I have not made those connections outside of the mountains.
I don't know. I'm just rambling. I am having a wonderful time in Dubuque, but I miss my friends. I miss building a fire in Docs and talking about life for hours in the evening. I miss staring at K2 during sunset joking with my friends as we admire it. I miss thunderclouds at the Millsite. I miss getting a table at Mezcal after a long week. I miss doing extended lost boys during the week with my friends. I miss topping a tree off using a cross cut saw with my friend who is now paralyzed. I miss hiking out in the dark tired and scared after a wonderful day. I miss yelling for joy at the top of a mountain with a friend or friends who came along. I miss Saturdays at the rail trails with 30 teammates. I miss my friends.