Sunday, February 26, 2012

the big year

Awhile back, to counteract the horror of growing old, I decided that each big year--those ending in zero or five--would be marked by a Big Event. For my last zero, I ran my first marathon. For the five, I backpacked the Overland Track in Tasmania.

I could wait five years back then because my life was a daily adventure. On any given day I was kayaking along the Alaskan coast, flying in a floatplane over untracked mountains, or fighting fires in some remote mountain range. Each day was an intoxicating dose of adrenaline and beauty, organized terror and breathlessness.

A day on the job as a kayak ranger

The helibase at Yellowstone

Look, there's my ride!
The hardest thing I have had to accept with my new life is that I need to find adventure on a micro-scale. It's there, it's just not as in-your-face. A ski along the old canal has its own small adventure, a run across the moraine its own beauty. Still, sometimes I miss the old days. For many reasons, I can't ever return, and most days I am okay with that. But not quite, so I have changed the rules. Instead of every five years for a Big Event, from now on it will be every year.

Now those people reading this who are lucky enough to hold down an adventurous job or who somehow don't need to work won't get this. But my fellow computer punchers will. Most of us are not the faceless softies you may envision. We labor on because our eyes are on the prize. In my case, my plan is to retire outrageously early. So I work on, and think up Big Years.

This Big Year is hiking 230 miles plus change on the spine of the Sierras. Yes, we got our JMT permit, through a semi-back door route that adds on a few miles, but who is counting? Yes, the trail is well-trodden, definitely not a slog through the jungles of New Guinea. But who cares? It's my Big Year. And next year? There are some ideas in the hopper. That is the beauty of a Big Year. It doesn't have to conform to any rules. It doesn't even have to be a trip. It could be finishing a novel. It could be getting married. (Wait. I've done both of those.) It just has to be something spectacular in your own mind, something that gets you through the rest of the year.

In the meantime I will work on finding the adventure in little things.

Anyone else have Big Years? What are they?


  1. Since the clock does not want to stop ticking, I am trying to make every year BIG in some way. Take that back, I am trying to make every month big... week???
    Gosh, I must be getting old. ;-)
    Let me say it again, I am so glad you got your permit. Hope hiking with a group is going to be fun. Just keep your eyes open. You just might find me lying there exhausted pinned by my ugly pack on the side of the trail.
    Hope they will be able to clear some of the trees off the trail. Reports are rather not encouraging. I would rather deal with snow.

  2. That is so awesome. I have to cram Big Things into short periods of time but have been doing stuff that fulfills me pretty consistently for the past decad or so. I keep upping the bar though limited by my job. We do what we can do! I am really excited for you. I will have a sabbatical in four years and if I am not a parent I might consider a lengthy thru-hike. Antarctica is still presently at the top of my list though.

  3. I'm one of those that you say won't get it, but I totally do. I think everyone has a bucket list of things they want to accomplish, big or small, and it will always take awhile to get to some of them...after all, my list grows rather than gets smaller. :)

    The JMT sounds divine! I almost want to come.


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