A Field Guide to Stoke: Spider on Steroids “Trip Report”

August 13-14 I got to do one of the Ultrapedestrian Wilderness Challenge routes, Spider on Steroids, as a two-day trip.  It was a super fun and not at all easy 50 miles (plus whatever we did getting lost) that included climbing 5 mountain passes!  Some of the photos below were taken by my awesome partner for this venture, Kincaid!  Part of the challenge is to include documentation, so I decided to write mine as a study in all of the different ways I felt stoked about the adventure (especially since I’m not a very detail-oriented person and therefore bad at writing informative trip reports)!

Pre-Stoke n.  The feeling you get when you know something is going to be good, but you aren’t sure how it will go.  Sleepless nights before adventures.

Ex:  We tried to fit in the back of Kincaid’s car.  He was too tall and kept moving on his really loud inflatable sleeping pad.  I cuddled into the side of the car to try to take up as little space as possible and wondered what tomorrow would bring.  Would it rain all day?  Would we get lost?  Would I be able to keep up?  Despite the strong pre-stoke jitters, the moth that was trying to live inside my shirt, and the objectively uncomfortable nature of sleeping in a car, I fell asleep quickly.

Groove Stoke n.  The feeling of going through a familiar series of steps or a repetitive action that you know from experience will lead to stronger feelings of stoke.

Ex.  The climb up Little Giant Pass was long, and it was that kind of steep, easily-erodable dirt that just sucks to climb.  The weather was also less than ideal and I couldn’t see very far, but I felt the groove stoke as I knew this was only the beginning and there would be a great view at the top.  It was good to be getting the hardest climb out of the way first, and I had coffee in my belly.

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Climb up Little Giant Pass

Whoa Stoke n.   The feeling of “whoa” you get when faced with an overwhelming sensory experience.

Ex.  The first climb did indeed deliver.  After talking to a couple of hikers and their dog (who just wanted our snacks), we looked out at the gradually-dissipating fog, revealing the dramatically snaking river in the valley below.  It was bordered by plush green mossy patches of an impossibly saturated color and little groups of perfect trees.  As the fog continued to clear, we could see more and more of the surrounding ridges.  The whoa stoke really set in, though, when a rainbow emerged from the fog.  How was this really happening?!

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Danger Stoke n.  The feeling of not being sure how you are going to get out of a situation, but enjoying the mild to moderate fear/anxiety on some level.

Ex. After a lovely meadow walk and a climb where the trail got a bit hard to find (and we both got our legs thoroughly wet and scratched up) we reached the top of High Pass, where visibility approached zero.  I started to get cold.  I got a bit dizzy and had to stop to eat something (still something like snack #8), and once I wasn’t moving had to put on basically all of my clothes.  Worse, there was a lot of snow at the pass, no tracks, and no idea of what actually lay in any direction.  Luckily, Kincaid was a bit better at navigating using his GPS track than I would have been alone.  Still, we did a bit of trying a direction, discovering a cliff, and shivering and looking concerned at each other.  Eventually, we settled on traversing the weird-shaped space between some snow and some steep rock to get to a slightly nicer-looking area in the right general direction.  He employed an entertaining shuffling method, using the snow for footholds.  I stuck to the rock.  We laughed uncomfortably through it, and the danger stoke carried us until we could see a trail again in the distance.  Relief!

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Me kissing the trail after our scary off-trail moments

Suffer Stoke n.  “When you’re kinda suffering but at the same time loving every second of it.”

Ex. The morning was cold.  And we were tired. I had slept later than I ever do when I am sleeping outside, for some reason.  We bargained with ourselves about when to get out of our warm sleeping bags.  Eventually, my sometimes convenient hunger got the better of me and I got the bear bag so that we could eat in the tent.  After we negotiated the remaining steps of breaking camp, we faced the cold and the rest of our climbing (though most of it would be on real trails this time!)  In a morning Kincaid described as “definitely not stoke,” I was nevertheless excited as we took the wrong trail because we failed to wait for an obvious sign, then climbed an unnecessary hill by accident.  When passing hikers asked how we were doing, the mixed feelings of suffer stoke caused me to answer “great” in an unconvincing tone.  He answered, “tired.”

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Whee Stoke n.  The childlike joy you get from playing, like sliding down hills on skis or your butt or skipping through meadows.

Ex.  Finally, we reached the snow field at the end of the last climb up to Spider Gap.  We put on our traction devices and finished the last little bit of climbing.  We saw a surprising number of other people.  At the top, I got so excited to be in the snow in the sun, I started slide-running down the hill.  The whee stoke was too strong at this point to stop, so I just kept running/skipping/kind of falling and laughing to myself until I got to the end of the snow, and belatedly realized I had never put on sunscreen.  It felt so good to be done with climbing!  I waited a second for Kincaid and we continued with high spirits.  When we passed others, we now both claimed to be doing great.  I was actually over-the-moon and unreasonably excited, for reasons I couldn’t quite place.  The peaks around us and the wildflowers were still astoundingly beautiful!

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Ahhh-Stoke n.  The self-assured, super-chill pride you feel from having done the thing.

Ex.  The road walk, however, was really not the best.  Our feet really started to hurt and we just wanted to be at the car.  We tried jogging a bit now and then to feel different feelings.  Still, eventually it was over and we got to the car.  Having taken a selfie at the trailhead and taken off my shoes, I stared out the window of the car on the way home and let the ahhh-stoke wash over me.  I was relishing in the fact that we had just done such a fun and exciting thing AND I was getting a shower in just a couple of hours.

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Bro Stoke n.  The feeling that your adventure companions are the best, that they inspire you to be better, and that you can’t wait to have more good times with them.

Ex.  When we got to my house, I hopped out of the car and made sure to get all my stuff.   “You turned out to be a great hiking partner!” he called from the driver’s seat as I went to go claim my shower, cheesecake, and other spoils of the finished adventure.  “You too!”  I said, the bro stoke still strong even though we had only met briefly before this adventure.  Compatible hiking partners are rarer than you’d think, and it’s always rewarding to find a new one.

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