After a week of camping in the Teton Mountains, I am here to say that I shall never grow old. It all began innocently, with an invitation to join two good friends on their annual pilgrimage to the Tetons. After mulling over the invitation, I loaded up the tent and the kids, filled the car with gas and headed north.
Obstacle number one: I have never been to Jackson. Fortunately my phone is equipped with a map app that tells me how to get where I need to go. Without that app, I could still be driving around, lost in the mountains. When I finally reached our campground, I felt elated by my success.
Obstacle number two: Slalom skiing. I have water skied in the past. The very distant past, when I was much younger, much fitter, and much crazier. The passing years have made me protective of my body. I don’t want to get hurt. After much cajoling by my friends, and much whining by me, I agreed to try getting up on one ski. And I did it. Once again, the brain synapses began firing in new directions and I felt young and adventurous. The next day, as my shoulders, hips and back ached in pain, I felt neither young nor adventurous.
On the third day of adventuring, as my kids fondly called our trip, I encountered the largest obstacle of all, and it was much worse than getting lost in the mountains or slalom skiing. My dear friend challenged me to ride a stand-up paddleboard down the Snake River. In a wet suit. Panic filled my chest all afternoon, as I contemplated her suggestion. I was already far outside my comfort zone, and felt panicky at the thought of heading into the unknown on a small floating board, while dressed in a ridiculously tight garment.
Eventually I capitulated, but only after being mocked by several small children who clucked loudly like chickens. As she handed me the wetsuit, I immediately regretted that decision. Although the label said “men’s large”, no man I know would fit into this contraption. I squeezed myself into the springy material, grabbed my phone for pictures, steeled my nerves and stepped onto the board.
My legs were shaky but I headed down the river. It actually seemed fun. Then I decided to take a picture of a beaver swimming near me. I pulled my iPhone out of the wetsuit and began fiddling with it. In a brief moment of clarity, I realized that this might not be a good idea, just as I saw the paddleboard slip from beneath my feet.
A wet suit does not keep you dry. Nor does a wet suit protect an iPhone. I grabbed my phone before it sank, and then endeavored to climb aboard the floating piece of fiberglass. The beaver was long gone. For a moment, I lay on the board, humble in my fall. Then I got back up and finished my ride. Gunnar, my ten-year old son did not fall from his paddleboard, and he encouraged me the entire time. He didn’t even laugh when I fell. At the Cattleman’s Bridge, we pulled out of the river, cold, wet and happy.
Climbing out of a damp wet suit is harder than climbing into a dry one. By the time we got back to camp, the sun had set. I was chilled to the bone, but elated. I had conquered the river and my fear of the unknown. At this rate, I really will live to 111.