My love of the outdoors: Who I have to thank for it

Me being in places like this didn't happen in a vacuum. A lot of people were and still are a part of my ongoing outdoors journey.

Me being in places like this didn’t happen in a vacuum. A lot of people were and still are a part of my ongoing outdoors journey.

I got into an interesting online discussion where the question was asked, “Who was it that instilled in you a love of the outdoors?”

This is a great question, because I don’t think anything happens in a vacuum. No one just walks outside and says, “I think I’m going to be an outdoorsy person.” Something has to light that fire, and in most cases that fire is lit by someone your with.  So here is my list of people who lit and stoked my love of the outdoors.

My parents

These two were there when I was a mere sprout, doing the little things that got me outside. This is the three of us after the Oklahoma Memorial marathon.

These two were there when I was a mere sprout, doing the little things that got me outside. This is the three of us after the Oklahoma City Memorial marathon.

Last week, I wrote about my (fading) fading dream of living the mountain life. A part of that dream was created in 1976 when my parents bought this amazing little cabin in the Rockies. So many formative adventures started here.

Easter at the family cabin in Colorado.

Easter at the family cabin in Colorado.

All of us really loved that place. It was our base camp for fishing, hiking, watching nature and launching outdoor dreams.

My sister Shiela, her friend Valerie and myself looking at doing a little fishing near the family cabin.

My sister Shiela, her friend Valerie and myself looking at doing a little fishing near the family cabin.

You can never underestimate how those small experiences outside can grow into wonderfully big expressions in adulthood. They are formative and significant. So parents, if you want your kids to love and respect the outdoors, turn ’em into little rippers now. My parents did, and all of their kids were better for it.

My brother-in-law, Mark

Mark and a nice gar. This dude can fish.

Mark and a nice gar. This dude can fish.

A born-and-bred Texan, Mark met my sister when they both lived in the Denver area. During his early 20s, he spent a lot of time feeding his love of fishing out in the Colorado high country, angling for trout in the streams and beaver ponds of the Rockies.

Shortly after they married, Mark was kind enough to take me fishing several times. We hit plenty of places in northern Colorado, out west near Eagle, and then south not far from Buena Vista and Tincup.

Thirteen-year-old me (awkward!) with a stringer full of fish Mark and I bagged near Eagle, Colo.

Thirteen-year-old me (awkward!) with a stringer full of fish Mark and I bagged near Eagle, Colo.

These were the trips where I learned to fish for trout, the reason why I almost never get skunked when I’m getting a hook wet in a trout stream. I learned how to fish, how to read a river, and how to appreciate how awesome the settings are for trout fishing. It’s no accident that most of the first mountains I hiked and climbed weren’t far from those old fishing holes. The first time I laid eyes on the incredible skyline of Mount Princeton, Mount Yale and Mount Antero was when the two of us were driving west in Mark’s little pickup, heading to where we’d camp and fish the next day.

My brother Mike

My brother Mike on the slopes of Wheeler Peak, N.M.

My brother Mike on the slopes of Wheeler Peak, N.M.

Mike was another guy who loved to fish, and some of my earliest memories of fishing were with him as we plied the waters of the Kishwaukee River in northern Illinois, or on nearby farm ponds. We kept that fishing habit up for a long time, and what Mark started in me, Mike honed even further.

It’s so very Mike that Mark and I showed him the ropes of trout fishing, and later on, he was teaching me.

Later on, Mike grew a passion for hiking and climbing the Colorado 14ers, the mountains that rise to more than 14,000 feet in elevation. He inspired me to hike my first big mountain, Wheeler Peak, N.M., and was there with me on my first three 14ers in Colorado.

Mike and I on the summit of Mount Elbert, Colo.

Mike and I on the summit of Mount Elbert, Colo.

A few years later, we brought our brother Steve into the 14er fold, with all of us tagging the summits of Quandary Peak and Mount Bierstadt.

Mike, me and Steve atop Quandary Peak, Colo.

Mike, me and Steve atop Quandary Peak, Colo.

Mike left us far too soon. He passed away in 2011 from cancer at the age of 47. In so many positive ways, however, his legacy lives on in his family and friends, things that go way beyond the mountains. But my little 14er obsession has its roots in hearing Mike talk about those early hikes up Mount Bierstadt, traversing the Sawtooth Ridge, and climbing Longs Peak.

My friend Johnny

Closer to home, my adventure bug got numerous feedings from my friend Johnny Hunter. We met through martial arts, and it was there that we discovered a shared love of hiking.

Johnny Hunter on the crags of Mount Mitchell, Okla.

Johnny Hunter on the crags of Mount Mitchell, Okla.

I’d been to the Wichita Mountains of southwestern Oklahoma before, but really got to explore them with Johnny. We’ve tagged a bunch of peaks out there, anything from gentle hikes to airy, exposed, slabby climbs. Johnny is one of those guys with no fear of heights and is always up for adventure.

The two of us, with no real coaching from anyone, did our first snow climb together on Mount Shavano in Colorado. And he’s been there with me on other mountain ascents numerous times. Anytime the adventure siren calls, Johnny is game.

My Colorado mountain buddies

There are too many of them to name, as this circle has grown quite a bit over the years. But those who are consistently in the mix, and have been there during those critical times of growth, include friends Bill Wood, his sister Beth Ketel, Noel Johnson, Chuck Erle and David Bates.

Me, Beth and Bill atop Mount of the Holy Cross, Colo.

Me, Beth and Bill atop Mount of the Holy Cross, Colo.

Clockwise from left, Chuck, David, me and Noel atop Mount Sneffels, Colo.

Clockwise from left, Chuck, David, me and Noel atop Mount Sneffels, Colo.

I’ve learned a ton from these folks, and I’m continual appreciation how they took me, a comparative noob, under their wing like I was an equal partner. That sort of humility and patience is a rare, beautiful thing you find much more commonly in hikers, climbers and mountaineers. Here’s hoping for more summits with this gang, and all of the other folks in Colorado I’ve met and hiked/climbed with since. You know who you are.

So there you have it. From my childhood to the present, these are the people who have created and sustained that love of the outdoors in me.

Do you have people like that in your lives? Feel free to share in the comments. I’d love to hear your stories…

Bob Doucette

A few things I’m thankful for today

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, bar none. The reason? Food. I love Thanksgiving food. Plus, there is the fact that the holiday is mostly free of the commercial spoilage of many other holidays (hello, Christmas/Valentine’s Day).

It’s also a good time to reflect. There are plenty of thing I’m thankful for. In the spirit of this space, we’ll keep it focused on the great outdoors and the ability to enjoy it. So here goes…

You can't help but to be grateful for vistas like this. (Chuck Erle photo)

You can’t help but to be grateful for vistas like this. (Chuck Erle photo)

I’m thankful for our wide open spaces and public lands. I love cool cities and the things they offer. I just love wild places more. Wide open blue skies, ancient forests, fragrant fresh air, expansive vistas and towering peaks – those are the places in America I love best. I think back to the peaks of the San Juans, dressed in spring snow and adorned in fresh green alpine grasses, and marvel at the amazing blessing that our public lands are. Times Square? The Vegas Strip? South Beach? You can have it. I’ll take a trail, a forest and an awaiting summit over all of that any day of the week.

My kinda gang. And there are plenty more where these folks came from.

My kinda gang. And there are plenty more where these folks came from.

I’m thankful for friends who want to venture into those wild places with me. I’ve met some of the coolest people in my outdoor circles. We are all pretty different, but we share a love of being outside and exploring nature. From there, so many other things come easy. Conversation flows. Food and beer is shared. And the toil, struggle and triumph of testing ourselves outside creates a special bond that’s hard to mimic anywhere else in life. I can’t wait for the next adventure!

We're all a little crazy, but running -- and running friends -- are pretty cool.

We’re all a little crazy, but running — and running friends — are pretty cool.

Speaking of buds, I’m thankful for my running friends. Many I’ve run with, many I interact with online. We all share a love of running, be it on streets or trails. We’re a little nutty, subjecting ourselves to the struggle of fast races, LONG races and months and months of training. People don’t understand why we run so much, and we just roll our eyes at the oft-used phrase, “You’ll only see me running if I’m running away from something.” We’re a special tribe. We’ve discovered health, achievement and the secret to an enjoyable life: If you run enough, you can eat all the tacos and drink all the beer you want. Sometimes during a race. So go ahead and sit on the couch, munching on your kale chips. We’re out there running some miles, enjoying pork carnitas in a tortilla and popping a cold one, and we’re still not gaining weight.

I'm just glad to be able to do all these things.

I’m just glad to be able to do all these things.

I’m thankful for my health, and a body that can put up with the strain, stress and abuse I put it through. There is a lot of punishment you subject yourself to when climbing a big mountain, or heading out on a big backpacking trip. And yeah, the pounding of a five-month training season to get ready for a marathon is pretty tough on the body. Joint strain, muscle soreness, overtaxed immune systems, and all the other things that come with endurance training can beat you up physically and mentally. But you know what? I have no complaints. Thus far in life, I’m healthy. Able-bodied. I don’t look at that long-slog approach hike as a chore, or that 20-mile training run as a burden. Yes, they’re hard. There is some suffering involved. But the fact that I’m healthy enough to be able to do these things is something that is not lost on me. There are plenty of people who can’t do these things. Some of them can’t because of circumstances beyond their control. They’d love the opportunity to try, but just can’t. My health is a blessing, and the summit views I’ve seen and the finish lines I’ve crossed are the harvest. Thanks be to God that I’ve been able to express myself physically in this way.

I could list a lot more things, but you get the point. We’ve got to count our blessings. Remember that while you’re chowing down on all that good food, while you’re soaking in endless hours of football, or, God forbid, standing in line for early Black Friday sales. Gratitude makes everything a little sweeter.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088