By JEFF LUND
June 08, 2017
(SitNews) Ketchikan, Alaska - In July, my first set of friends from California will come up and get their week-long slice of Alaska. It’s been fun to see how far we’ve altered the threshold of adventure for a few of them since they first visited.
“I’m really excited to come up, I don’t even care if we fish,” said Brian a high school teacher and softball coach before he was shown the ways of taking terminal salmon with a snagging hook.
Fast forward five years and he’s the one checking the tides and recommending we get up at 3:30 a.m. to get on the road and make sure we get to the snagging grounds on time.
His sense of wild has changed. His perception of the amount of adventure he can handle has changed. He craves the outdoors – as long as it’s for about a week, in summer and under my supervision.
It’s normal to get hooked by the idea of being bolder. Not in that teenage rebellious type way, but in that, me vs. nature sort of way.
I’m reading Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales. It’s a scientific approach to the survival book. Rather than a, “So there they were…” collection of outdoor stories, it attempts to answer the, “Why would someone do that?” question that we, the rational, logical reader, existing outside the context of emergency or adventure, ask.
According to Gonzales and his exhaustive research into survival phenomenon, we function in outdoor or adventure systems created by experience, but often times those systems are flawed. However, as long as the system works, we have faith in it… because it’s worked. But at some point, the flaw in the system will be revealed and since we’ve been conditioned to believe that if we make decisions that satisfy requirements within our system we’ll be okay, when it doesn’t happen, we fail to act properly. In those moments, we can only hope then that the consequences aren’t dire. And since all these routines and systems are executed by humans, accidents are always going to happen, no matter how much better safety technology gets.
Gonzales quoted an engineer after the space shuttle Columbia disaster. The engineer spoke about the expectation and understanding of astronauts when it comes to the inherent danger and potential totality of a disaster, a state of mind the general public doesn’t share. The engineer concludes:
“S- happens, and if we just want to restrict ourselves to things where s- can’t happen… we’re not going to do anything very interesting.”
Alaskans don’t live the lives of astronauts, but the heartiest do put themselves in situations where they might feel like they are on the moon – isolated, maybe even from rescue.
I live a pretty docile life compared to the ice road truckers, commercial divers, fisherman, bush pilots, etc. I go on overnight solo hunts in the alpine and skiff trips to troll or to access more secluded rivers for steelhead. My risk is acceptable, comfortable and minimal in comparison to some thanks to my threshold.
It’s hard to simultaneously embrace “Be Bold” to live a life worth sharing and “When in doubt, don’t” as a way to preserve it, especially in the context of recreation.
We don’t have to do the Traverse before the snow melts, we don’t have to troll for kings when it’s blowing 20, we don’t have to hike mountains alone. We get to. It’s a reward for living in a time in which all the generations before us worked and innovated to advance us to a point in American history when we can seek risk for recreation, while someone else lives their life through Netflix characters.
I’m not sure which is more dangerous.
Jeff Lund is a Teacher, Freelance Writer, living in Ketchikan, Alaska
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