Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Bringing Tom Home

For years, my dream vacation was been the 14-day trek from Lukla Nepal to Mt. Everest Base Camp. Yes, Everest Base Camp . . . not the Caribbean or Hawaii or Manhattan. I realize it’s a dream I’ll probably never check off my bucket list. With the news of the devastating Nepalese earthquakes recently, my thoughts naturally traveled to that majestic part of the world.  

I grieve for the massive loss of life, but I know the Nepalese will rebuild. Such is the determination and resiliency of the human spirit. As of this post, Everest Base Camp is devastated and empty. No climbers are on the mountain. However, just as I know the Nepalese people will rebuild their homeland, I know that Everest Base Camp will once again teem with adventurers. The slopes of Everest will not remain empty and silent for long. Such is Everest’s draw. Such is the spirit and camaraderie of those seeking adventure.
In a recent CNN article, Bringing Tom Home, Moni Basu and Wayne Drash wrote about Eric Poppleton’s determination to recover the body of his best friend, Tom Taplin, from the slopes of Everest after the first massive earthquake rocked Nepal. The account touched me, and in a very tiny way, I can relate.  

I’ve helped ferry an injured rafter strapped to a longboard down a class IV rapid on the Gauley River after a flip. I’ve witnessed a lifeless young woman tumble through Coliseum, a class V run on the Cheat River. I helped carry a young woman with a broken ankle from the middle of the Lower Yough River. I do not say this to place myself on the same level as those who brave Everest. I will NEVER EVER come close to their skill and athleticism. Gosh, my heart still jumps into my throat every time I hit a class II rapid in my kayak! But, when it comes to the camaraderie and friendships forged when doing crazy things, I can relate.

I’m not talking crazy as in teenage Animal House kegger crazy. No, I’m talking about grand outdoor adventures with friends, challenging ourselves, pushing each other, swallowing fear and coming through on the other side.  

I remember conversations I had with thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail as we shared a shelter and hot coffee during a downpour. I remember sharing nightly campfires with strangers on the Laurel Highlands Trail. I remember laughing and swapping stories with kayakers and rafters just met on the river. I remember the good people from across the world I met rafting through the Grand Canyon. I remember the father and son backpacking together for the first time.

I’ve always sensed a love of life and adventure in these people, a spirit as big as the heavens. There’s a knowledge shared, a common dream. I’m sure some reading this post will find it strange, but to me it’s not strange. That’s why I understand Eric’s determination to face Everest one more time. That’s why I can relate to Eric’s resolve to bring his friend home.

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