Call me mountain woman, adventure addict or tough old bird; I’m most at home in the wild places of the Earth, where Nature reveals its beauty and brutality.
I look back on a life of adventure, most of it devoted to mountaineering. I’ve seen the view from atop Denali and Logan and from more summits than I can count in the Alps, Nepal, Peru, and in Canada from the BC coast to Baffin Island. In recent years, technical climbing has given way to hiking, backpacking, snowshoeing, study of the mountain environment, and photography. When you are climbing, you are nose to nose with mountains, and they all pretty much look alike. When you stop to enjoy the flowers, wildlife and geology, they are all different.
Age takes it inevitable toll, of course. Four-legged transport (horses, dogs, camels) is welcome now and I no longer scorn mountain lodges with comfy beds and someone else doing the cooking. I haven’t slowed down – just changed modes. Since I turned 70, I have rafted the Burnside, Firth (three times), Nahanni (twice) and Tatshenshini rivers in northern Canada, the Fraser and Chilkotin in BC, climbed Kilimanjaro, visited the Galapagos Islands and Ecuador, taken two horse treks and a cultural trek in Mongolia, mushed dogs and winter camped on two separate weeks in the Yukon, gone on safaris in Tanzania, Kenya, Botswana and Namibia, toured Patagonia, visited Monarch butterfly wintering sites, seen polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba, kissed grey whales, spent two weeks at a horse ranch in Mexico, kayaked the Douro River in Portugal, done a tandem skydive from 14,000′, and even bungee jumped at Victoria Falls (age doesn’t necessarily confer wisdom).
My friends call me an adrenaline junkie, which I take as a compliment because at age 80, I’m happy when people see me as something other than an old woman. But I don’t agree. Over the course of a long life, I have been mauled by a black bear, faced a grizzly at close quarters, and narrowly escaped death on an uncontrolled slide down a mountain, to name just a few of the adrenaline-causing misadventures that I’m not eager to repeat. But a bungee jump at Victoria Falls, a tandem skydive from 14,000′ and rafting trips down wild rivers, all in the last two years, are, for me, simply ways to enjoy life through new experiences, although they obviously are not for everyone. Of course these activities involve risk, but so does driving my car, which is probably the riskiest activity of all, but which I do calmly on a daily basis. And I enjoy a great many experiences that don’t involve risk, such as luxury African safaris, symphony concerts and writing novels. So leaping off a platform with a rope attached to my ankles didn’t really cause a surge of adrenaline; it was just something I wanted to try. (Would I do it again? No. What would be the point?)
Adventure is a seductive and addicting. Wilderness adventure. In this blog I try to share some of the fantastic places I have experienced, and I also hope to understand a little better just what adventure has meant to me.
I will keep following the trails as long as my feet can move to take the next step, and if my life should end in some wild, beautiful place it will take three undertakers to wipe the smile from my face.