Monday, June 3, 2013


Shadows and Light

     I had a shadow of doubt about completing the 24n24, but that shadow was much smaller than the light of "I can do this." That sort of light animates my life, and keeps me upright. And while the shadow of self-doubt provides some ballast—a sort of counter-weight to unbridled enthusiasm—it has to remain subservient to vision, hope, and faith. It's a life-long dance, isn't it, this play between the certainty of success and possibility we may fail; being sure that something is possible, while at the same time accepting the part of our mystery that cannot tell the future. Truth is, my shadow of doubt foreshadowed what was to come, and I came up short on both of my attempts last week. I'm thankful I kept my doubt in its place, secondary to the larger truth of "going for it." Otherwise, I would not have so publicly shouted "Hey, check this out," nor would I have committed 6 months of free time to training, nor would I have asked everyone to encourage me by donating to the nonprofit I'm so steadfast about supporting, The Wildlands Conservancy.

Snow Plant on Birch Mtn
     My first attempt fell to an unsuspected adversary, my body's metabolism. In hindsight, I realize I should have trained once or twice with an overnight climb, starting up 6000 feet at that same time that my mind and body was expecting to lay down to sleep. If I had done so I would have had some expectation and would have prepared some defense. The overnight lows at the ridge line were in the 30s, colder with wind chill,and this would not have been a problem had I kept up a good strong pace. It should be easy for you to understand how hard it was emotionally to turn around at that early point, when so many were following me, cheering for me. Letting go of a dream is hard…it's something each of us have experienced. This dream of completing an epic course over two ridges and so many peaks, was my own challenge—like any other, like yours, it was personal. In the letting go, I believe we are guided to turn around and see the extraordinary and beautiful path we have taken on the way here. 

Mill Creek Jump Off
     And so, as I made my way back down the mountain, I was certainly sad, but I was also strangely jubilant. I shouted out just how happy I was to have found my way to this chapter in my life, this place where I am learning about giving, and am giving myself to finding just how I can give. I am blessed to have found this important pivot in life with more chapters ahead to write, to read. Concerning my second attempt to tackle the 24n24 course, I may well come up short in the telling, like I fared on the trail. Thanks for hanging in there with me. First, I have no plans to ever again solo traverse the section between Galena and Little San Gorgonio. In fact, I have plans to not do it a third time, so you can assume it won't be me who completes the 24n24 solo, self-supported loop. Someone else could, I still believe complete this challenge. 

     I set out from Bearpaw Reserve at 4:11am on Monday morning, in a counterclockwise direction, and held a good pace until I hit the knife's edge traverse to Galena. I'd traversed this once before in the opposite direction with several good friends: David Myers, Doug Chudy, and Charlie Marquardt. Approaching from the West, it all looked so unfamiliar. And with no one else accompanying me there was no way to compare opinions on best route options—getting around rock cliffs, for example. The traverse requires repeated handholds on unsecured rocks, and plants rooted in loose, sandy, and steep mountainside. Bottom line, I felt much more vulnerable this time. And since I've never been drawn to this kind of danger for challenge or thrill, it was very slow going.
San Jacinto, Pisgah Ridge, Oak Glen

     The sun rose on the way up to Allen, the second peak. It was going to be a hot day—I could tell by the sun's intensity—and I started thinking about my water caches and how they'd been placed with a clockwise loop in mind. The Birch Mountain cache was going to be near the end of the clockwise trek, a gallon to pour over my head and cover my hydration needs for the last few hours. It was more than I needed, but heading the opposite direction I had to consider the long haul over the exposed section of the Yucaipa ridge to the next cache, placed on the far side of the Mill Creek Valley. I knew I'd need every drop of it. As it turned out, I had to stretch it too thinly and I was moderately dehydrated by the time I reached the next gallon water. Now, 14 hours into the hike, I called it once again, and started down the Vivian Creek Trail towards Forest Falls.


     Once more, I met my limits. Limits! I make their acquaintance, but I never invite them to come live with me. I recognize them by face and form and sound, but it would be foolish to know them too well; I'd be tempted to let them dictate to me what I can and cannot do. When I meet my limits, they often send my shadows' regards. (Remember my shadows of doubt?) Well, I tell my limits to send my own regards right back.

     Now, having once again passed over these extraordinary places, including some seven peaks that The Wildlands Conservancy has saved from development and which are on track to be included in an expanded San Gorgonio Wilderness, I can say I am happy. The experience of my 24n24 epic endeavor "out there" has been matched and even surpassed by the kind thoughts of all who have followed along in some way, and given in spirit and support. I've been moved by it all, and I'm a better person because of it. And if I've provided some inspiration, even a small portion of which has come my way, I will have done right and good.

     In gratitude, Paul

P.S. I'm thinking of running across the Mojave Desert next spring. This next Epic4Epic will be fully supported, with a traveling van, and I think I'll plan it as a non-solo epic (if you know someone who'd enjoy this sort of thing, let me know). For now, though, let's you and I plan a short, simple walk through a beautiful place.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Paul,

    Great words! I love your insights!

    Yeah, let's do that: "Plan a short, simple walk through a beautiful place."

    Sounds good to me!

    My email is:, just in case your interested in that walk with a big fan of yours.

    Best Regards,