I know what you’re all thinking: it’s about damn time.
a few years back (and by a few years, I mean, five. holy moly I never thought I’d be old enough to reference five years ago as if it was yesterday) I had the time of my life working in Yellowstone National Park. I met some of my favorite people on the planet. I spent my free time exploring the 2.2 million acres of undeveloped wilderness. I saw grizzlies and foxes and wolves and osprey. I kissed boys with accents and I dipped my toes in rivers warmed by natural hot spring features. I lost my breath under the milky way and almost died in a hail storm on the top of Electric Peak. I even climbed Middle Teton. like I said, I had the time of my life.
but one of my biggest takeaways from the entire summer is actually a stolen one. that’s right, I’m a thief (think Aladdin or Robinhood or another Disney movie that has really good music).
I quickly made friends with a girl/boy duo from Indiana. we worked at the front desk together so during spring training, they were some of the first people I met. we started hiking trails together in late May and by the time taller mountains melted off, we started hiking those together too. their legs were taller and faster than mine, so I always enjoyed pushing myself to keep up. I remember one particular climb, I was “pushing” myself after them for a summit of Avalanche Peak, one of the easily accessible, steeper trails in YNP. from what I remember, they had gone to bed early the night before to prepare for the arduous journey. I, on the other hand, stayed up sneaking whiskey swigs in the dorms with who knows who (probably a group I fondly refer to as The Mississippi Boys. or is it whom?) needless to say, I almost died.
I can’t remember if it was at the top of this peak or another (god, i’m old), but at the top of one of something somewhere, the beautiful girl stood on the tips of her toes and yelled off the edge. then she leaned back and listened to her words bounce to her off the surrounding mountain tops in an echo that only happens when you really, really want it to.
I’ve never seen the Swiss Family Robinson (if I have, I can’t remember. again, just so old), but what my dear friend yelled from the top of the mountain was “I’ve got my tiger!” which apparently happens in the movie. for some reason, with no nostalgic connection to that phrase and no contextual understanding to what it even means, I’ve yelled it off of every mountain I’ve climbed ever since.
the summer I spent among geysers and buffalo happened immediately after i graduated college in the concrete jungle of San Francisco. you could say it was an outdoor rediscovery. I went from drawing sketches of fashion models to tracking prints in the mud. i went from caring about brand names and shoes (oh my god, shoes) to caring about down fills and battery lifespans. it was a very necessary three months that reminded me why I loved being a mountain girl (messy hair, don’t care and other things, too). that summer put me on the track that’s taken me on countless adventures. that summer is also the reason I decided to Summit for Someone.
progressively over the last few months as my trip to Africa has crept closer, I’ve been an emotional wreck. the last three days have been the pinnacle.
Wednesday I hosted my last fundraiser in my hometown. my favorite people who have known me since I was three or five or ten came out (with their darling parents) to support me. it was the best reunion I could have asked for. plus, after over a year of fundraisers and straight out begging, we finally met my goal. I can proudly say with the help of the INCREDIBLE friends, family, and strangers in my life, we’ve raised $8,500 for at-risk youth outdoor programs. let me say that again, EIGHT THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS. think of how many prints will be tracked in the mud when Big City Mountaineers takes these kids out backpacking. I can’t even think about it with dry eyes.
on top of that, due to a series of misfortunate events that have nothing to do with Jim Carey, I had to send my passport out at the last minute to the Tanzanian Embassy for a visa. the second it dropped into the mail slot, I immediately felt naked (and not the good kind). what if it didn’t come back in time? what if someone lost it? what if the USPS hopped on this whole “throwback Thursday” (#tbt) wagon and started using ponies to deliver mail again? cue panic attack. but fortunately, with a week and a half to spare and the good graces of the cosmic universe looking out for me, it arrived safe and sound and stamp-approved yesterday (pony free i’m assuming, but I didn’t actually see the delivery).
between the absolutely overwhelming kindness of all of the people in my life (the “i’m proud of you”s and the pats on the back and all of the incredibly generous donations) to the potential demise of the postal service as we know it (please note the band went on hiatus, but is maybe getting back together according to Ben Gibbard’s twitter feed), I’ve been crying off and on for days. by crying I mean bawling in the car, in the shower, when I opened the mailbox and saw my passport envelope. I would make a joke here about Miley Cyrus’ (emotional) Wrecking Ball, but I just…can’t.
I’ve wracked my brain trying to think of a way to say thank you that feels bigger and more meaningful than “thank you.” I can’t remember the last time I’ve worked so hard for something mentally and physically (well, sort of. I have been eating a LOT of chocolate). I can’t remember the last time I’ve felt the support of hundreds of people, all looking to me to succeed. I can’t remember being so terrified of failing at it, either.
But here I am, leaving a week from Sunday on my biggest and bravest adventure yet. We’ve raised the money I promised to raise. I’ve got my plane tickets and my shots and my victory candy bar. The only thing left to do is to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and get that tiger.