Where It All Began & Where I Am Now

Since starting Mountain Climer, I have done my best to focus on spirituality and ethics, but those topics can bleed into a number of different areas. I have also tried not to make this all about me, though admittedly, these are my thoughts and opinions and I can only speak from my own experience.  But largely, I have tried to not make this blog self-centered.  

That’s going to change… a little bit.

I’m still going to keep focused on spirituality and ethics, however, I think I’d be remiss if I didn’t share my story.  Mountain Climer in and of itself represents a journey, but it’s also a part of my overall journey.

 

Where It All Began

 

I am an adult onset hunter.  I had interest in hunting, fishing and bush craft as a kid but I had no one to mentor me and show me the way.  I spent as much time as I could in the woods, even joining Boy Scouts when I was twelve and I enjoyed that for about a year before a new scoutmaster changed the direction of our troop from outdoors to indoors.  

I have always been a voracious reader, especially American history. When I roamed the woods with my BB gun and my dog, I pretended to be Daniel Boone or some other early American explorer.  I always dreamed of walking into the woods, building a crude shelter and living off of the land for a while.

Then, when I was in high school, I had gone on to other pursuits, including playing in bands.  However, there were two films that I saw during those years that really stuck with me and put a burning desire for the Rockies in my soul: A River Runs Through It and Jeremiah Johnson.

I really don’t remember how I came across A River Runs Through It, I believe it was when I was sixteen and working at Blockbuster and it just happened to be one of hundreds of movies I took home during the two stints I worked there.  The imagery and the story both captured my imagination.  Even now, twenty-two years or so later I can’t fully explain why it fascinated me so, but I longed of going to Montana and learning to fly fish and I have loved trout ever since.

The first time I saw Jeremiah Johnson though was unforgettable.  It was Christmas break of my sophomore year of high school, I was fifteen and there was a significant amount of snow on the ground for Indiana. I got into a fight with my dad, as teenage boys are known to do, and I decided to walk to my friends’ house across town.  At the time, especially in the snow, it seemed like a long trek, Google Maps now tell me it was 4.5 miles, but in the days before cell phones, I had no idea if my friends would even be home when I got there.  

About halfway to their house, I was cold and tired.  I decided to stop at this girl’s house that I knew from school. We weren’t particularly close, but we ran in the same circle and her house was convenient.  I rang her doorbell and her dad answered the door. He told me she wasn’t home, but he could see that I walked and invited me in to warm up.  He said he was just sitting down to watch Jeremiah Johnson and I was welcome to stay and watch it with him.  I told him I’d stay for a bit, but might not stay for the whole movie as I was anxious to get to my friends’ house.  

I stayed for the whole movie.

As has often been the case in my life, I wanted to go back in time and live in a different era.  I knew it was a hard life, but I wanted to test myself like those folks did.  I wanted to roam the Rockies in search of furs and meat and live off the hard land.  I knew one day, though I may not live off of it, I would live near the mountains and traipse through them with my rifle looking for meat and furs.  

 

Where I Am Today

 

I live in Colorado.  Over twenty years later and that’s as close as I’ve gotten.  I’ve hunted small game and I’ve hunted whitetails in Michigan, Indiana and Kentucky, but this coming year is my first year in the mountains. I’m still greatly handicapped by my lack of experience and my lack of funds.  I drive a Ford Focus and at this point, I have no idea when I am going to be able to afford a four-wheel drive vehicle so I am at the mercy of my friends when it comes to hunting in the mountains.  That’s okay, for now I’ll beg to tag along with folks or borrow a truck and someday, after we buy a house, I’ll buy a used four-wheel drive truck to get me up into the mountains.  Or more importantly, a truck to get me out of the mountains.

This life is a journey.  There are a lot of things I wish I was better at or farther along on, but I’ve made my own decisions and as Frank sang, “I did it my way.”  No excuses, no regrets.  

Most importantly, I’m excited for what’s next and what’s after that.  

My Story

I did not grow up hunting or fishing, though I have always loved the outdoors.  I did not have a father, grandfather or uncle who were hunters even though we lived in a rural area.  I came to hunting on my own in my 20s (and am only now coming to fishing in my 30s) through several unconventional ways.  I believe that part of it was living in urban metropolises and seeing some people’s negative views of rural people and their practices, it was beginning to care where my food came from and it was, perhaps most importantly, just getting to know myself for who I really am.

 

As a boy, I loved being outdoors and I had a BB gun, though that was the only gun that was in our house.  I liked the idea of hunting and fishing even back then.  I remember seeing A River Runs Through It when it came out and ever since then I’ve had a desire to learn to fly fish and go to Montana.  The books and movies stuck with me and I was always drawn to the Mountain West, it just took me a long time to get here.

 

Living in Chicago from 2004-2009 really hardened me in a lot of ways and forced me to figure out who I really was.  All these people were talking about “organic”, “sustainable” and all the other buzz words but when I’d bring up hunting, many people would become disgusted with me.  It never made sense: deer who lived for 2-5 years, free range, organically, hormone free who were then humanely killed seemed to be a lot better off than some farm raised animal (not that I have an issue with ethically raised domestic animals).  What irritated me more was sharing a meal with these folks and seeing them not eat all their food, especially the meat.  They put up a good fight about humanely treating animals and then they wasted their meat.  Almost unforgivable to me.  I know I’m weird, but when I eat, I eat my meat first and I finish it before moving on to my vegetables.  I try not to waste any food, but if I do, it’s not meat.  That animal’s sacrifice so that my family can eat is sacred whether it was harvested from the field or from a farm.

 

My defense of rural people and practices and my concern about where my food came from slowly evolved over time to something deeper.  As I went small game hunting with friends and hunted for whitetail in Indiana and Kentucky and went on multiple backpacking trips out west and in Alaska, I started to feel more connected to nature.  We humans like to toe the line between being above nature and then feeling guilty about thinking we’re above nature.  When you insert yourself into a role that has been played by man for thousands and thousands of years, you open yourself up to being connected to something greater than yourself.  You feel connected to the natural world – and we should – we are animals and a part of nature even if we happen to be the species that has the greatest impact on all other species. 

 

At this point I’m borderline obsessed.  If I’m not able to be in the wild, I’m reading about animals, habitat and conservation, writing about it, watching hunting shows online, listening to audiobooks or podcasts or at the very least thinking about it every minute I’m awake almost.  If it’s a good night, I even dream about it. 

 

My goal here is to simply try and reach other folks who feel like I do and find common ground with folks who don’t understand where we’re coming from.  Not everyone needs to be a hunter, but I am concerned about the future of conservation and wildlife and I am concerned about a lot of people who seem to be very unhappy with the postmodern world.  I think at least a few of them could find peace in the woods like I did.  If I can help introduce people to that joy and peace, then that will make me very happy.