GET OUT: Blurry Boundaries

By on October 13, 2015

When a high-alpine run in the rain stirs gratitude for people and place

The author and Lewis Smirl navigating the fog atop Little Tuckermans Ravine (left);  summiting first objective of Cody Peak in the fog.

The author and Lewis Smirl navigating the fog atop Little Tuckermans Ravine (left); summiting first objective of Cody Peak in the fog.

Jackson, WY – When you live in Jackson you have to redefine your definition of “normal” on a pretty regular basis. Before moving here 12 years ago, a multi-sport day meant watching both football and baseball in the same morning, now combining various outdoor activities is known as a Tuesday afternoon. Assimilating to the “new normal” of Jackson Hole has taken some time, but adjusting to this lifestyle has its advantages. If a person is open to it, the Jackson mindset of adventure can bring you to some pretty amazing places with some pretty great companions. For instance, with my new Jackson filter of what is considered “fun” I accepted an offer from two friends to run 15 miles at 10,000 feet in 40-degree temperatures with heavy fog and pouring rain. Our goal was to traverse from the top of the tram to the top of Glory via the ridge of Rendezvous Mountain, staying off trail as much as possible.

While we rode up the tram, I looked around at my fellow passengers and pondered why anyone would pay $35 dollars to admire a 20-foot view. However, to the bewildered tourist, our endeavor must have seemed just as useless, as my friends and I exited a perfectly dry tram-car to spend the next five hours navigating slippery scree fields. As I tied my shoes for the journey ahead, I made eye contact with one of the sightseers, each of us unsure of who was the zoo animal and who was the spectator in this comical scenario.

Before I had a chance to figure out what role I was playing, both of my companions were already jogging their way towards the first objective of Cody Peak. To the onlookers it must have appeared strange to see three people voluntarily leave the warmth of a heated building to venture into the cold tundra. However, I never questioned the pecularity of our adventure because my partners seemed to think it was a perfectly reasonable activity for a rainy Saturday in October. As we awkwardly maneuvered over snowy boulders and around rain-saturated trees, I noticed that for such an awful weather day no one was complaining. In fact, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves while chatting away about politics, mountaineering, and the most paramount of debates: which tastes better, Snickers or Butterfingers.

As we hit the knifeedge of Rendezvous Peak I contemplated what others around Jackson might be doing. I knew of at least two friends who were running from Open Canyon to Granite Canyon regardless of weather, and I wouldn’t have been surprised to hear that many others around the valley were embarking on similar soggy adventures. What a strange town we live in, a place where spending time with friends means hikes up Snow King, mountain bike rides on Cache Creek and climbing at Rodeo Wall.

Sure, Jackson is renowned as a destination where people push their physical boundaries, but most people visit for a week and call it good. People who live here embrace this tradition of exploration on a daily basis. To some, this ethos can be overwhelming and to others it just becomes the standard way of life. It would have been easy to stay home on a rainy weekend and watch a movie nestled in bed, but instead I chose to stumble around on loose rocks in the fog. Most importantly, however, I didn’t have to do it alone.

This is why I’m so happy to call Jackson my home. I feel like I have found my people here. People who enjoy being beat down by nature because “it’s just what we do here.” This type of behavior may come across as “too agro” for folks who prefer pounding the pavement to pounding the trails. However, I perceive this attitude as an expression of all humans’ genuine curiosity to see what we are capable of. To me, Jackson residents will support any adventure, no matter the length, as long as someone is willing to try.

When we finally reached the top of Teton Pass, I was filled with a sense of calm knowing that there are other people like me. I felt secure in the knowledge that we all gathered in one town to be crazy together. Before moving to Jackson, I had always struggled to find partners that were game for an off the wall adventure. Today, that is not the case. I am continually grateful to live in a place where it’s “normal” to go for a run in the rain and adversity doesn’t stop people from doing what they love. PJH

About Ryan Burke

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