Tuesday, September 4, 2012

To Serve, To Strive and Not to Yield

Beginning of September, 1979.

I was 16-1/2 years old. I am sure that from my father's perspective, I had been a challenging teen.

My parent's had divorced when I was 12 and my father remarried shortly thereafter to a woman who was closer to my age than his. I dealt with this badly. Up until he remarried, my dad and I were a team. My mother had struggled with alcohol and prescription drugs, and it was up to Dad and me to help her with that, and keep it all secret. When my step mom came into the picture, we weren't that team anymore. That didn't sit well with me.

The Colorado Outward Bound School had been featured in a documentary that Dad and I had watched. I don't know why, by it looked fantastic. I saw the challenge and the wilderness. My father likely saw the troubled teen therapeutic value. I had the money in the bank to go, and was enrolled. I think at the time, I felt like my dad had called my bluff; 23 days in the wilderness of Colorado, yikes! What had I done?

My dad, step mom and sister drove out to Colorado. I will never forget the feeling I had when I first saw the Rockies off in the distance. It was an amazing mixture of wonder, excitement and terror. That view was truly awe-inspiring.

At 5 am on the morning of September 8, 1979, my dad and I left where we were staying to drive the hour into downtown Denver and the YMCA. When we got there, we unloaded my stuff onto the sidewalk and Dad said goodbye, got back into the car and drove off. I was alone, far from home, in a big city. I was terrified! During the next two and a half hours, more and more people arrived, and at 8:30 we boarded a bus and started heading for base camp.

We followed Interstate 70 West to just the other side of Vail, where we took US Route 24 South to Homestake Rd and on to Gold Park Campground. On the way into the Campground the bus was "stormed" by the instructors and staff of the course and we were told in drill instructor style to get off the bus. Others were unloading the bus and throwing our luggage into a big pile. This was followed by being told, again drill instructor style, to get our running clothes on and pack our street clothes. When this was accomplished, they threw all of our bags into a waiting pickup truck and they all drove off, telling us to run after them.

Now, I should point out that this was at roughly 9,000 feet above sea level. I had spent the summer living at my mother's, at sea level, smoking a couple packs of cigarettes a day, and where I didn't train like the school suggested. Needless to say, as soon as I started running, my lungs began screaming at me, telling me what an idiot I was! The pickup trucks, with all the instructors and our stuff disappeared, leaving us to hope we were following correctly. Thankfully, after about a mile and a half, we found them. The time was about 12:30 pm and I was so far out of my comfort zone that I couldn't remember it.

This is how the one of the most formative experience of my life began. I had no way of knowing what was to follow during the next 23 days or the levels of my body and mind that were going to be effected by it. I wrote a journal during that trip and took a few photos. It is my intention to share those as well as the other  romanticized memories I have. I will also try to map the trip, if only for reference. I hope you enjoy reading it.

1 comment:

  1. Love the story here, Chuck. We at COBS are following it and looking forward to future entries. Thanks for doing this, it's good to hear about the history. - Adam