From high in the mountains, a lesson on resiliency during the age of the coronavirus

I’ve learned a lot from the mountains. A deep love for conservation, for starters. An appreciation of their scale and power, too. And in climbing them, I’ve picked up lessons in endurance, situational awareness and tolerance for risk.

But success in the peaks can be summed up in one word: resilience.

The toughness implied in that word is all-encompassing. A successful summit attempt (and that sometimes means turning back short of the top) is based on the resilience of your body, mind and spirit. If you come up short in these areas, the chances of failure — and potentially harm — rise dramatically.

Resilience is a word that’s been on my mind a lot lately. Before the Great Recession, my household income was at its peak. But there were areas of weakness that would be exposed when times got tough, and I learned a lot from that. “Never again,” I told myself, hoping to avoid the pitfalls that befell me when I lost my job and had to find work in a new town. As best as I could, I tried to figure out how to become more resilient when storms appear on the horizon.

And just like that, here we are. The arrival of COVID-19 brought a pandemic to our country, and with it came an immediate recession. We’re being told to stay home, work remotely and go out only for essential business. Nearly 17 million people are out of work. And millions more, like me, are losing income from furloughs or loss of customers. That doesn’t take into account the hundreds of thousands who have become sick with this nasty virus.

It reminded me of that word, and how important resilience is. I’ve thought about it a lot over the past year, and it’s come into sharp focus over the past month. Here’s how I see that term playing out now:

You need to be physically resilient. Like any disease, this new coronavirus is particularly cruel to those whose health is already compromised. I’m reminded of a poster that graced the wall of a gym I used to go to that had one short line written at the bottom: The stronger you are, the harder you are to kill. Physical fitness, a healthy diet and proper sleep are your weapons to defend against not only the virus, but also the stress that comes with it, and the economic hardships that have befallen us as a result. Find ways to be active. Walk, run, ride your bike, lift weights. Eat healthy foods, not just comfort foods that taste good, but aren’t nutritionally valuable. Get your sleep. These habits are what make athletes great, and they work well for the rest of us, too. Not only can you make your body more fit, but a good exercise routine will help work off stress. And remember that poster: If you’re stronger and fitter, you’ll be a better survivor.

You need to be mentally resilient. Mental toughness is critical when hard times arrive. Create in yourself a mindset that accepts that things aren’t ideal, then launch your efforts from there. In other words, you know that things suck, so what can you do about it? Train yourself to work with the facts and circumstances as they are, not what they used to be. If you’re facing some time off from your job, see if there are things you can learn that will expand your marketable knowledge and skills. Keep your mind active, working and thinking toward solutions to the problems you’re currently facing. A proactive, engaged mind will propel you toward making decisions on your terms rather than repeatedly reacting to — or knuckling under — new challenges. Give yourself some grace when you feel overwhelmed. But in so doing, stay the course and don’t stay too long in those moments of anxiety and sadness. Use the tools at your disposal the manage your mind and your emotions.

Build resilience in your finances. This is a tough one, because most of us are a paycheck or two away from disaster. Part of that is the reality of where wages are for middle class and lower-income workers. But also, some of that is our fault. Personal finance gurus like Dave Ramsey suggest having an emergency fund that’s equal to 6-9 months of income, and personally, I think that’s unrealistic for most people. But he has a point. Having an emergency fund to make up for lost income is critical. Pay down your debts as much as possible. And given where we’re at now, it’s high time to cut expenses. Take a hard look at all those monthly box subscription services, online streaming services and other expenses you have. Sort them out by “wants” and “needs,” and be honest about it. Build up the ability to be able to weather this storm or, if needed, be able to quickly pick up and move to where new job opportunities are. And when this downturn passes, keep up these new habits. Chances are, you can get by maintaining your old car, not using credit cards and ordering fewer things on Amazon instead of falling into old free-spending habits that weaken your financial position. And if at all possible, avoid dipping into retirement savings. Sometimes it’s impossible, but resist that as long as you can as it’s incredibly difficult to make those losses down the road.

Work on your spiritual resilience. In this case, you can find comfort and inner strength by embracing your faith. Find time to dive into those sacred texts and pray. Look for wisdom there to help you deal with the stresses, questions and anger that confronts you. These are often quiet, solitary times that will allow you to slow down, see things more clearly and inform the decisions you make and actions you take.

And even if you’re not a religious person, you can still apply “spiritual” practices that will make you inwardly stronger. Find time to be alone in a quiet setting, be still, breathe deep. Go on a long walk, ride or run. Maybe do some gardening. Or yoga. These activities have rhythmic, meditative or peaceful attributes that parallel what many religious people find when they pray and meditate on scriptures. Meditative practices tend to unclutter your mind and create inner peace.

I know that some of us are going to get trucked over the next several months. The Great Recession jacked me up for years, and frankly, I never fully recovered from the losses of that downturn. But I learned from it. My hope is that we can weather this and come out OK on the other side. We can’t control a lot of the bigger forces at work, but we can put on our own personal armor and steel ourselves for the challenges ahead. Truth is, we don’t have another option because giving in is no option at all.

And that brings me back to what I’ve learned on the mountain. The peaks can be beautiful, peaceful and energizing. But they can be scary, dangerous and even violent places, too. Getting to the top — or getting off the mountain safely — is often a combination of enjoyment, effort, fear and wisdom. The constant is it’s never easy. But another constant for those who have had success in the mountains is that they are resilient. And resiliency is a character trait from which we can all benefit now.

Bob Doucette

The Covid Chronicles continue: Losing income, friends getting sick, and finding ways to deal

Innovate where you can, bro.

This was going to be a fun weekend. That was the plan, anyway. I’ve got a longtime friend from Colorado who’s probably forgotten more about backpacking then I’ve ever learned, and over the winter he invited me to join him and a group of college kids who were going to do a four-day trip into the backcountry of Arkansas’ Devil’s Den State Park. He was teaching a university course on the subject, and the trip was a way to practice what they’d learned.

Needless to say, the trip isn’t happening. Not after all this virus stuff. And I get it. Aside from the contagion risk of meeting up with a group of people from all over the place, and potentially getting or transmitting the bug to people we’d meet in the towns leading to the park, it’s  not a good idea. I think you could still get away with a close-by solo camping or backpacking trip, but even then, it’s not a great bet.

Again, this is a small problem in an ever-growing sea of much bigger ones. And some of those have hit home.

Last week, 3.3 million people applied for unemployment assistance as the first big wave of layoffs hit following nationwide orders that “non-essential” businesses close until the COVID-19 outbreak is subdued. That was a record, some four or five times more than the previous mark. This week, that astounding number was dwarfed by the 6.6 million who applied. Those are jaw-dropping statistics, and frankly, I cannot imagine what it would be like to be looking for a new job in these conditions. What we see unfolding now might make the Great Recession look mild, and we all know how painful that was.

Personally, I knew the other shoe was going to drop sometime. Working in the news business, we’re heavily dependent on two sources of revenues: subscriptions and advertising. The good news is that subscriptions and online readership are up. The bad news is that advertising is way down, and seeing that advertising is a huge part of how my employer makes money, the pain is sharp. What that means is everyone in the company is going to have to eat two weeks of furloughs — unpaid leave — over the next three months. That’s a bunch of money we won’t be getting, but I still consider myself lucky that I’m employed. Being laid off is far worse. I’ll weather it and hope that things calm down soon. But I’m not counting on it.

As for other things going on: My neighbor, the older fella who got sick with the virus, is on the mend. Great news, because we were worried about him.

But I’ve got another friend who is in the middle of his own coronavirus odyssey. He’s a doctor who, a couple of weeks ago, was in front of a suburban city council urging them to enact stricter stay-at-home measures to stop the spread of the virus. A week later, he came down with the virus himself.

He texted me the news a little less than a week ago, telling me he thinks he caught it while treating patients at a hospital north of Tulsa. The availability of personal protection equipment — N95 masks, face shields, etc. — is limited, and at that hospital it was only given to staff who were treating people with confirmed cases. In his case, he was seeing patients who were thought to be potential cases based on their symptoms, thus he didn’t have the gear given to him that others got. And hence, the infection.

You can read more about what he had to say about it here. The weekend and early part of this week was rough, so I’m hoping things get better for him soon. I can’t express the worry I feel for those in health care right now.

On a lighter subject, I’m still learning new ways to stay active. I might not be backpacking, but I’ve found ways to use backpacks for fitness. Nothing like loading up a backpack and doing walking lunges up the hill. I think that loaded pack might find other uses, too, and I’m still looking for other ways to challenge myself physically. I don’t see my gym opening up for another couple of months, so I gotta make do.

And for now, we’re still allowed to go outside to walk, run or bike as long as we keep our distance. I do hill repeats on the bike. I go run. The other day, I decided to run one of my downtown routes, mostly just to see how things look with so much locked down.

It’s quiet. Parking garages are empty. No one is going into restaurants. Car traffic is light. If I wanted, I could probably run across most downtown intersections without even bothering to look for traffic. Construction is ongoing at two high-rises, but other than that the only “activity” I saw was a guy walking into an eatery with a box full of supplies. I’m assuming the restaurant is still doing takeout and delivery. But I worry about the Tulsa Arts District and all the businesses that are there. Restaurants, bars, taprooms and concert venues are all closed. The baseball park is empty and will stay that way.

This Friday would be the First Friday Arts Walk, which usually brings hundreds of people there to tour the museums. A park there usually hosts free outdoor concerts. If there was a baseball game scheduled, thousands more would come. Add a show or two and hundreds or thousands would be added to their numbers, and the Arts District would be hopping. This weekend? It’ll be a dead zone.

And for good reason. Coronavirus infections are spiking, hospitalizations are surging, and deaths are beginning to mount.

It’s hard for everyone, even if you’re not sick. We’re losing income. Jobs. Missing friends. Unable to see family. And all those travel plans are toast. All of it’s been replaced by boredom at home, worries about money and the overhanging dread of the question: “What if I get sick?”

And I think that’s why I’ve been adamant about exercising. I haven’t missed a workout yet. I’m still running. Yeah, none of this is as epic as the lifts at the gym or as fun as those group runs and races we’re missing now. And it’s OK to grieve that. But you have to find something to cope with it.

So that’s my goal for next week, and every week going forward until life gets back to some sort of normal. I hope you can do the same. Find that things to help you deal.

Bob Doucette

Making adjustments in Covid World

Making do with what I have, this time doing kettlebell swings.

Though this 21st century plague has been around since December, COVID-19 has only made its presence felt in in my hometown for the last few weeks. It’s definitely becoming more pronounced.

I live close to the urban center of Tulsa. While it’s no Manhattan, it’s typically a busy place with plenty of cars and people going to work, grabbing a meal or going to shows. It’s a destination center for the city.

Not so much these days. What I’ve seen over the past week or so is that the noise of the city has changed. Fewer cars. Less machinery. More birds and breezes in the trees. The city is quieter than I’ve ever seen it.

I mentioned daily disruptions last week, and that continues. I still go to the office for work, but they’ve split my department up, with about half working on another floor now. During my shift, the newsroom has no more that five or six people in it. When my shift is over and I’m doing my last duties, I’m the only one there. I plug in some tunes and get to work on placing stories for the corporate website, send off a few late emails and shut it down without a soul around. On Thursday, I worked from home for the first time. Downside: not having two monitors and dealing with twitchy internet connections. Upside: Five feet from the fridge! I ate well last night.

Speaking of eating, here’s a Covid World first-world problem: The taco joint next door to my office shut down, closed until this mess clears up. So no weekly burrito feast for me (insert sad face). Real world problems: The people who worked there don’t have jobs. They and 3.3 million other Americans filed for unemployment last week. Having been on that ride before, I can tell you this: No one enjoys unemployment. Being broke is stressful.

I’m making other adjustments. I posted a video on Facebook and Instagram showing me doing some kettlebell swings, maybe trying to encourage people to make do with what they’ve got and keep up those exercise routines. Exercise builds resilience, and that can help you fight off the bug. Or maybe get over it.

Anyway, a friend saw the video, commented, and offered to let me borrow an unused barbell and a few plates. She’s  personal trainer and works from her house, and was hoping to find someone who could use the spare gear. It’s not much — about 110 pounds total. But let me tell ya, I’m grateful to have it. I can program in  barbell lifts that I’ve been missing the last couple of weeks. It’s interesting to see how people react in times like these. Some folks are fighting over toilet paper. Other people, like my now-idled personal trainer friend, are looking for ways to help others whose lives have been upended.

One thing I’ve noticed hasn’t changed: People are still getting outside. The parks lining the Arkansas River have been busy. One of my new workout ideas is to do hill sprints on my bike, and there is no shortage of people walking, running, cycling and skateboarding on the trails. I’m not sure how much actual “social distancing” is going on there, and there was enough concern from the city that it and the county closed down playgrounds and basketball courts. I’m getting outside, too, cycling and running until the government says I can’t. I don’t do well cooped up.

Last thing: I think my neighbor’s condition may be improving, and his husband doesn’t seem to be coming down with the bug. We’re keeping an eye on them, mostly because they’re a bit older and fit all too well into that “vulnerable” demographic people keep talking about. I’m not worried about catching the bug from them. It’s the spring breakers that concern me.

As for me, I’m getting a little fluffier around the middle, but otherwise healthy. I’ve still got a job. I think there’s toilet paper around here somewhere (I know a place to get some that isn’t overrun by panicked suburbanites). But like a lot of you, I’m warily eyeing those infection numbers, wondering when the next shoe will drop, and hoping this thing doesn’t last too long.

Stay safe and well, my friends.

Bob Doucette

In COVID World, daily disruption is the new normal

My gym is closed, so my house is now my gym. Welcome to COVID World.

Strange times, man. That’s the only way I can think of it.

I’m a creature of routines, and for the most part they’ve served me well. I get up roughly the same time every day. Eat breakfast. My workout times are set, and it all dovetails nicely within my work schedule. I set aside time to write, sometimes for myself, sometimes for those of you reading here.

But it’s different now. My routines have been disrupted. Hell, all of our routines have been given one big ole flat tire on the highway of life.

COVID-19, the lovely little coronavirus that up until a couple of months ago was a curiosity to those of us in the West, has overturned our collective apple cart. Like it or not, we’re all having to adjust to this janky new normal.

A lot of what’s been altered is a series of first-world problems that are actually deeper than the term implies. After my city ordered most public service businesses to shut down, I lost access to my gym. Goodbye squat rack, sayonara deadlift platform, adios bench press and all the big bars and plates that go with them. What I’ve got at home: A scattering of smaller dumbbells, one kettlebell and some TRX straps. There’s a place on my back porch where I can do chin-ups, and I have my bike. I’m making a go of it, but it’s off to a bumpy start.

Saying that, I know there’s more to this crisis than a loss of my gym membership. At work, we’re enforcing social distancing. Some people are working on another floor now. Others are working from home. We’re doing a whole lot of G-chat to communicate, and adjusting to a workflow that’s unfamiliar and a little clunky. I’m sure we’ll get used to it. But again, it’s more disruption.

Comparatively speaking, my issues are  small. Others all around me are suffering much more.

This week, thousands of workers in all areas of the hospitality industry lost their jobs. Gone like the morning dew in a matter of hours, all because public safety had to trump commerce, even if that meant folks losing work. With the downturn has also come serious hits to aerospace, the airlines and the oil business. Before you scoff at the losses of big companies, keep in mind that tens of thousands of people in my city alone work in these areas. So do family members of mine in Texas. Layoffs for them loom large as corporations face the grim reality that a sea of red ink is about to swamp their finances for months to come, if not longer.

Having been on the losing side of such job cuts in the last recession, I can tell you that I feel for folks who have already lost work or are about to. And yeah, I’m nervous for my own liveliehood, too.

And cutting to the heart of it is this: Community spread of COVID-19 — that is, the disease being communicated freely in the population — is here in Tulsa, and one person has died. The man was a healthy person in his 50s who was diagnosed with the disease one day before he passed.

And as you read this, I learned only hours ago that a man in my own neighborhood was diagnosed with the new coronavirus. He’s quarantined in his house, fighting it off at home so far.

As I see it, disruption is all around, and more of it is to come. Stricter measures have been laid down almost daily, and yet I know from following this story since December that the U.S. is about two months behind the curve in responding to it. It’s probably going to get rougher before dawn breaks.

So sure, I miss my gym. I miss the races that all got canceled. I’ll miss the restaurants that had to shutter, and the movies that won’t play at the theater. The city streets are quiet, spring festivals canceled and plenty of uncertainty and fear lies ahead. This storm seems to be just getting warmed up.

I can’t say exactly how to respond to all this, other than trying to do what the scientists say. I’ll keep working. I’ll read more. Binge-watch a few more shows.

And I suppose I’ll go out to my back porch and do my chin-ups. It’s the best I can do to salvage some of my routines, virus or not.

Bob Doucette

At the trailhead or on the starting line, the coronavirus may wreck your plans

Climbing Mount Everest has been canceled for the year because of COVID-19 concerns.

The news cycle tends to dominated these days by one thing: the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19.

It’s going to affect pretty much all areas of life for us here in the United States, and from what I can see, things are just starting to ramp up. And “all areas” include those things that we love to do the most: live adventurously.

As an example, China took the extraordinary step to close the north face of Mount Everest for the season. Not long after, Nepal announced plans to close the south side. Himalayan mountaineering there and on the other peaks is pretty much shut down now.

I can imagine that’s going to be a similar story in a lot of places outside the Himalayas. Given the severity of the outbreak in northern Italy, it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine a near-dead climbing season this spring and summer in the Alps. Certainly that will be the case in the Italian Alps, and as the disease progresses in neighboring countries, it may be a quiet year in European mountain towns for some time.

I don’t know what that means for us here in the States. For now, there haven’t been any restrictions on travel inside the country, but should we experience the level of outbreak seen in Italy, it could happen.

Local races can draw hundreds of competitors and thousands of spectators. Will these events still happen this year?

There’s something else, too. The same community that heads to the hills for adventure also tends to find itself on starting lines. From 5Ks to ultramarathons, and any number of cycling races, the spring usually brings on a ton of events that draw outdoor athletes from all over the place.

Close to my neck of the woods, we’ve got a local half marathon and full marathon coming up next month. In late April, the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon – a big event by most standards – is on deck. In my city, Tulsa, we’ve got an IRONMAN triathlon set for late May, and the annual three-day Tulsa Tough cycling race series in early June. All of these events draw anywhere from several hundred to several thousand people, be they competitors or spectators.

Will they still happen? It’s difficult to say, but the NBA just suspended its season indefinitely after two of its players came down with COVID-19. College and pro leagues initially looked at playing games with no fans as a way to salvage television revenues and not endanger the public, then came back and canceled events and postponed seasons. Some of the same conditions that are giving these organizations pause exist in running and cycling events, especially the big ones. Will there be a Boston Marathon this year? A summer Olympics? Should there be?

And what about us? Should we be out doing the adventure thing? Should we be racing? Some of that is personal, for sure. Foremost on our minds ought to be one group of people: those most likely to suffer the worst effects of the disease. You never know who might give it to you. And then, who you might bring it to. At this point, I’m playing it by ear. I want some mountain time, but no summit is worth someone else’s health.

One last thing: Don’t underestimate the financial impact all this mess is going to have on the businesses you know and love. People whose shops depend on adventure tourism and sports are going to be hurting. I’ve got friends who are race directors, and know a bunch of people in different outdoor industry circles. Their experiences are going to be a lot like those who count on fans showing up to regular sporting events. If you think canceling a race is no big deal, think about how many businesses in Austin lost out when South by Southwest got canned. It’s no different for businesses (hotels, restaurants, bars and gear shops, to name a few) that are connected to big city races, as well as all those mountain town enterprises that make or break their year by how well the high summer season goes.

Looking for advice from me? I don’t have much. Take care of the things you can control for you and those around you. And when the time comes, be there to support those who are going to take a hit from this outbreak. Aside from that, buckle up. It could be a bumpy ride.

Bob Doucette

For runners, there are too many near-misses when it comes to cars

We’re looking out for you. Please look out for us.

About a week ago I was out on a run, hoping to kick it into high gear on the last mile of a 3-mile jaunt. The weather was great. I was feeling pretty good, if a bit gassed. And as I approached the exit of a corporate parking lot in downtown Tulsa, I saw it: a commuter pulling up to the street, looking to make a turn.

I locked my eyes on her because I know how this goes down. She’s looking for cars on the street to see if it’s clear to turn. She’s not looking for me. And sure enough, she pulled right up into the street and stopped when she saw traffic, then finally noticed my movement close to her passenger side fender. She sheepishly looked my way with an apologetic smile, then turned into the street.

I know the law gives me the right-of-way to keep going, but I’ve played this game long enough to know otherwise. I stopped just short of her car because otherwise she would have driven right into me. Even in a pedestrian-dense place like downtown, people’s habits are trained to see my streets – any streets, for that matter – like they were driving in the ‘burbs. They’re only looking for other cars. Runners are an afterthought.

That’s why I’m cautious at intersections. Maybe overly so. But I don’t want to end up on someone’s hood, or under an F-150. Might makes right in any auto-pedestrian collision, law be damned. It’s just the way it is.

***

I got to thinking about this latest near-miss (there have been a few) because of some news in my state. It hit me pretty hard.

On Feb. 3, a driver speeding along a thoroughfare in the city of Moore, an Oklahoma City suburb, slammed into a group of high school cross-country runners. One runner was killed outright. Another died soon after. And just this past week, a third victim succumbed to his injuries. All involved were where they were supposed to be, running on the sidewalk.

Three promising, young lives, all cut short. Three grieving families who must be ripped to pieces right now. Three more runners whose lives came to an end through no fault of their own.

The circumstances surrounding this tragedy are different than what I’ve experienced in that the driver was drunk. But at the same time, the incident underscores just how vulnerable runners – any pedestrians, really – are when they’re navigating our communities on foot and in proximity to automobile traffic.

If you live in a rural area or a suburb that’s light on regulations concerning sidewalks, it’s hit-or-miss when it comes to safe places to run. Even when sidewalks are present, you’re still not safe.

We’re told to run against the flow of traffic so we can see what’s coming. To wear bright, reflective clothing. Maybe even headlamps and flashing lights attached to safety vests, just so we can be more visible. To cross at intersections, and only when the walk/don’t walk light gives us the OK. But even then we’re all one distraction away from a driver leaving their lane or breezing through a stop light… and right into us.

I don’t want to break my leg or crack open my skull when I’m on a run. I’m a solid 190 pounds, but that’s nothing compared to the 5,000 pounds of steel and glass a lot of you choose as your ride. And that’s why I’ll stop cold if I feel a driver isn’t paying attention.

***

So here’s the rub: I don’t know what the solution is. There are park trails I could go to that are sufficiently separated from the streets as to be practically immune to auto-pedestrian collisions. But if sidewalks aren’t meant for people to, you know, walk on, then what’s the point?

I guess all I can do is lend a voice to it. Paying attention to the road also means paying attention to what’s near the road. When you’re at an intersection, it means looking for people who might be crossing. It means not being in a rush just because someone isn’t moving through as quickly as you’d like. It means looking both ways at traffic – street traffic as well as sidewalk traffic. And if you’re driving in an area with a lot of pedestrians, it means slowing down and paying even more attention to your surroundings.

The car culture in this country runs deep. It’s entrenched to the point where cities, despite their best efforts, are ruled by how to make auto traffic flow smoothly. Anything on foot is mostly an afterthought. But a change in mindset is needed. Cities are only growing and becoming more dense, and with the cost of driving only rising, you can bet more people are looking to live and work in places where they don’t have to drive if they so choose.

In other words, when you’re behind the wheel you need to put those of us on foot on your visual checklist before hitting the gas. We’ll try to be safe, but you must do your part, too. A dent in your front fender could be all she wrote for us.

Bob Doucette

Rather than bail, go ahead and take that hike

Sweet trails at Loveland Pass, Colo., on an iffy weather day in 2015.

I got pretty stoked at last weekend’s forecast. It called for snow, which we rarely get anymore here in northeast Oklahoma, so my plan was to get my weekend chores out of the way, head to the trails and see what the woods looked like with a fresh blanket of snow on them.

I woke up to the snow ending, and just barely enough to pockmark the grass with dots of white. A dusting, and not the three inches I’d been expecting. It seems like the last few winters have merely been an extended fall that hurry themselves into spring earlier than I’d like. Part of that whole “hottest decade ever recorded” thing, I guess.

Anyway, I bailed on the hike and watched football instead.

But part of me wonders if I missed out, even without the scenery I expected. After all, some of the most memorable hikes I’ve done have come at times when the weather seemed to be saying “no.”

A few that come to mind…

In the summer of 2015, forecasts called for relentless morning and afternoon storms in the Rockies. I’d already been chased off Longs Peak earlier that week by bad weather and route conditions. But I desperately wanted some alpine time, so despite the ugly prediction I headed up to Loveland Pass to see what I could get.

It wasn’t a huge hike, nor was Cupid a prestigious summit. But the summit views and the way the clouds weaved around and over the mountaintops was so worth it.

Huron Peak emerging from the clouds, as seen from the northwest ridge of Missouri Mountain in 2013.

Two years earlier, terrible rains were flooding the Front Range and northern Colorado when I was supposed to join a group for a climb of Capitol Peak. The trip was jettisoned, but here I was in Denver and having spent a bunch of time just driving there, I couldn’t let it go. I took a chance on the iffy forecast, headed to the Sawatch Mountains and car camped at the trailhead of Missouri Gulch Basin. The next morning, with things looking as dicey as ever, I started marching uphill toward Missouri Mountain.

The weather held off. I was treated to surreal scenery and solitude on what was probably the most memorable summit hike I’ve ever done. It wasn’t a particularly difficult mountain but doing it solo on a day like that made it special. I wouldn’t trade that day for anything.

Rewind three more years. One weekend I had some free time and decided to head to the Wichita Mountains of southwest Oklahoma. I unintentionally ignored the forecast, but when I got there, it was apparent it was going to be a stormy day. Having driven more than two hours already, I said, “to hell with it” and marched down the trail.

A break in the weather going up a ridge in the Wichita Mountains in 2010.

I didn’t get to my objective that day (too stormy), but I did see some amazing things and got to know the range in a way that most of us never get to see: Enveloped in a historic squall, wearing the weather’s colors in a manner that was almost mythic. I’ll never forget that day.

I’ve had a few friends tell me that when it comes to big hikes and climbing mountains that you just need to go, even if the forecast sucks. It might turn out accurate, and you may have to bail. But you also might catch a window that allows you to have a memorable adventure. If you bagged it prematurely, you never know what you may have missed.

So, I suppose when I get my heart set on some snowy scenery and it doesn’t pan out, maybe I should go hike anyway. Something else might await that makes it worthwhile.

Bob Doucette