Friday, November 27, 2015

Opt outside

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, just like Fall Grand Canyon is my favorite tradition, for many of the same reasons. Besides bringing the family together in a low-expectations format centered around mushy food and homemade pie (my favorite!), Thanksgiving also prompts reflection on gratitude. Expressing thankfulness is another way of compartmentalizing values. What am I thankful for? What in life do I value most? Same question. 

This Thanksgiving was particularly festive, as it brought everyone in my immediate family together for the first time in a long while. We always gather at my aunt's house near Ogden for a large traditional spread and brief catch-ups with some of my many first cousins, their kids, aunts, uncles, and my 85-year-old grandmother. It's often a noisy affair that begins in the early afternoon, so my dad, Beat and I only had a couple of hours in the morning to sneak in a hike.

 We went to the lower Bell Canyon falls amid a few inches of fresh snow and frosty temperatures. It was a quick hour-forty-five, stabbing at the steep slope and breathing cold fire. I loped down the canyon behind Beat and Dad — both faster than me — brimming with gratitude.

 For Friday, we embarked on what seems to have become our yearly tradition of climbing Gobblers Knob on Black Friday. This year, some of the hype surrounding this pseudo-holiday focused toward REI's smart marketing campaign, #optoutside. Yes, it's a social media ploy, but it's also a fun sentiment. I love the idea thousands of people venturing outdoors during what is often a cold and windy part of the shoulder season in many parts of the United States. More people still choose to battle crowds at stores on this day, and honestly I think that's fine, too — my sisters are among those who love the Black Friday sales. It's a small slice of consumer culture, and I recognize that I'm very much a part of this. But similar to expressing gratitude on Thanksgiving, it's great to actually set aside a day where you can reflect on what you value more — a cheap television, or a day outside?

 Temperatures dropped into the teens as we climbed up Butler Fork toward the fierce winds that were ripping along the ridge. Winds of 50 miles per hour were reported in the canyons earlier in the day, and I was fearful of potential hurricane-force gusts, but we seemed to find a relative window of calm amid the snow-driving weather happening all around us.

 We even found a tiny pocket of calm to sit down and enjoy a quick lunch of pita bread slathered in Nutella and peanut butter. Thanksgiving dinner is pretty good, but if everyone could taste a Nutella and peanut butter sandwich at 10,000 feet amid a windchill of 0F, lots would have a new favorite food tradition.

With our hands and feet numbed by the short stop, and shards of ice whipping around us, we started down the mountain in giddy moods. I thought about how lucky I am to share these experiences with two people I love, my closest family members, and how grateful I am for our health. Happiness is simple at its core, where reality aligns with our values. I wouldn't trade this for anything. 

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