First, I want you to read this article:


Then I’ll discuss it from my POV.

Okay, done?

Stephen Olshansky’s youth sounds very similar to mine. He was born the same year as I, 1956.

In high school, Otter was easily bored, though he was a smart kid.

“5th grade bullied terribly left scar for life.… I was crushed beyond words.… So unhappy we moved away from woods.…

Got stoned first time at 16 was best thing ever, escaped reality pain for first time.

Smart but easily bored… Bullied… Moved away from the woods I loved… Found solace in getting stoned. I understand his pain.

Stephen ran away from home. I considered it many times but thought it wasn’t practical for someone who wanted to be a scientist. Of course I didn’t get what I wanted.

He also managed to get work as a golf pro which apparently paid enough to go on extreme hikes during the off-season. Here is where we differ. I managed to get work that paid enough for a cheap room and nothing else. I did manage to save enough for a few weeks in the backcountry but I had to quit that job to actually do it. Thereafter it was a struggle to stay afloat. I managed to live in the back of a rusted out Chevy van.

Somewhere I read that long-hikes cost about ten dollars a day. And that excludes the cost of any gear you might need. Food is not free nor are other expendables nor are the logistics to get it where you need it. You need to get to the trailhead and then you need to get from the other end of the trail to a place to live. Once there you have to survive long enough to find a job again.

By the time I was able to save up that kind of money I was imprisoned by a family and a mortgage. Sometimes a prison is voluntary and well appointed. It can even be loving and rewarding. But the back of my mind was always longing for the freedom to just be me and freedom to travel. Otter had that and friends as well. I’ve never had much in the line of friends.

Who knows? Maybe if I’d had the dexterity and skill to become a golf pro, that might have been me. (Not likely. I am terminally clumsy.) I like to think I wouldn’t have committed multiple errors that cascaded into my own demise. Ultralight backpacking in dubious weather. Betting against the storm. Pushing on despite illness. (Actually I have done that one.) Tossing my SPOT. Not being specific about my route. Not having a paper map.

Never mind the blithering incompetence of that SAR effort.

But that is just a conceit. I am who I am because that is what my life made me. Slow by and cautious by nature and constrained by arthritis. Never fearful of nature and never hurried. Taking only the calculated risk. Mayhaps if I had been in his shoes I might have quashed my judgment and rolled the dice.

Only God knows which of us has had the more rewarding life. Mine will be longer.