It is a misconception that some things require one to be fearless. Those who climb rocks, scale mountains, sleep under the stars … those who adventure beyond the norm are expected to be always strong, resilient, bold and brave.
I am not fearless.
I carry, always, a small seed of fear; the question “what if?” always lingering. I fear with an irrational bent. I am claustrophobic with great intensity. I have strange, random and unwarranted anxieties.
And yet, I climb on. I continue planning trips into the wilderness. Why? Because it’s brilliant to face your fears. It’s thrilling to look at what scares you right in the eye and say, “bring it.” Because I know I can do it, whatever it is, in spite of my fears. I take with me, seated right next to that seed of fear, a great ball of confidence. Confidence in knowing my capabilities and know what my challenges are. I know what I’m ready to face, and I know that I’ll always be afraid, and I know, most importantly, that I’m going to be glad I followed through; glad I took the chance. I will never regret trying that hard thing.
Yesterday I read about the missing hiker, Robert “Bob” Woodie. We were so close; maybe on the same trail, on the same day. He was okay when we were nearby. He sent an “ok” signal that day, just a few miles from where I had been. I reached out to the agency involved with as much information as I could pull out of my memories of last weekend. I want them to find him so badly. A week out in poor weather conditions is not promising for a 74 year old hiker, but I still hope. I hope for many things … for safety and health, for lack of suffering, for answers, for conclusions, for bonding the outdoor community together.
I think about these great people working in our National Parks, our wilderness areas, our SAR volunteers — people who are just average people, just like the rest of us — and I think, “what is making them so great?” Is it because they are fearless? Or are they are feeling that fear, just as I am, and going forth in spite of it?
I don’t know what, in simple terms, makes someone great. I’m sure there are pages and pages of discussion on the topic, but I don’t want to demystify it. I believe that we can all be great in our own capacity, when we believe we can, when we just do the thing our heart leads us to do.
We all have the capacity to be great.
Bob Woodie, in his way, is great. He is a human being, in his 70s, getting out into the world; being in the world. He is a human that has been really living. I don’t know him, nor do I know anything about him, but I know he went outside carrying his pack, and he was great. And I admire him for it.
If anyone was in the the area near Bishop Pass, Dusy Basin, Barrett Lakes, or Le Conte Canyon between October 13th and now, please reach out to the NPS: