Wyoming & North Carolina

NOLS (1988) & Outward Bound (1992) Expeditions

As I made that final phone call home before we disappeared for 30 days into the vast Wyoming backcountry, the furthest thing from my mind was that I would be standing atop Cloud Peak (13,167’) in the Bighorn National Forest less than 20 days later.

Having arrived late after numerous flights and delays, my team of fellow 14 and 15 year-olds had already been introduced, eaten dinner together and been assigned rooms in the NOLS hotel for the
night. I joined my assigned roommates in our room a little before midnight, and after cursory introductions I quickly surmised that I was grossly underprepared for the month ahead.

Bruce, with the crew-cut and large camera still dangling from his neck, as if he feared someone might steal it from him in the night, and Jack, the longer-haired blonde kid also from South Carolina, were both Eagle Scouts with considerable outdoor experience. This revelation made for a restless night.

As, I spoke to my dad on that final call home the next morning, I relayed my concerns and told him, “Hey, dad, you really screwed up this time. You know me… I’m an urban kid.” Having grown-up in the “suburbs” of Charleston, SC, if you can call them that at that time, he found great delight in my protestation and did not express much sympathy for my perceived predicament.

Perhaps, he was right not to be worried. My month-long NOLS course at age 15 ended-up being one of those few, truly meaningful experiences in life that I can point to and say that it clearly changed the course of the rest of my life. Twenty-four years later, I would depart Colorado for my first attempt of Mt. Everest, a development that I am confident no one would have predicted during the summer of 1988.

Four years later, I was fortunate enough to go on another similar month-long course, this time with Outward Bound, in the southern Appalachians of North Carolina. My brother went on an identical course at the same time, and although in a separate group where we only crossed paths once or twice the entire month, the shared experience made us even closer as brothers, if it was possible for us to be closer than we were already.