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 The Trek: The Journals

•
Team: South
Jacob MacLeod
Thursday, August 15
Exelsior
This was the night of Kay’s graduation. We were in a beautiful spot way back in the pines with a lush carpeting of grass. The trekkers had been on the dual-sport motorcycles, so we had some extra guests for our wonderful cook-your-own-steak night. We surprised Kay, er, Dr. Gandy and had a little celebration in honor of her accomplishment. The party was great, but was a special time for me. I had been waiting for a good time when I could make a little motivational speech to all my team members, and recite one of my favorite poems, “Excelsior,” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The night was absolutely perfect for it; I became so excited, I forgot the last two stanzas for a very very long 20 seconds.

Almost all of our teachers in Tooele made mention of the fact that our most precious survival equipment is our ability to reason. Dave, from REI, told us our most useful navigational tool lies between our ears; Dan, from Outward Bound, said the most important piece of safety equipment is our brain. . . In my experience, this hasn’t been emphasized enough, and I wanted to take the liberty of reiterating it for everyone.

One of my biggest frustrations is people that take life way too seriously. I was forced to constantly listen to these people during my short career in Boy Scouts, “instructors” who really didn’t know what they were talking about, and who discouraged people from taking risks. These are the people that will tell you it is impossible to go on a day hike without rain gear, water, food, matches, a whistle, a waterproof lighter, a signal mirror, water, three pairs of socks, a hat, water, “sturdy boots” (that one really cracks me up), sunglasses, a magnifying glass, water. . . . . The ridiculous list goes on and on and on of things you NEED. I always wonder, why? Why do I NEED all of that? Will I die if I don’t have it? Don’t get me wrong, I think it is very important to carry what truly is necessary, and is especially important for people without outdoor experience to have extra stuff, but only until they learn to use their brain and their attitude to get them out of trouble. I also think it’s especially important for people to know their limits. I hear people say that a lot, “Know your limits!” Then they say, “Don’t push yourself!” Well I say that people need to bite off more than they can chew, be under-prepared, get fatigued, dehydrated, cold, hot, scared, tired, confused, worn out, and beat. People HAVE to push themselves to find their limits, and that is infinitely more rewarding to me. I enjoy a comfortable walk in the woods as much as the next guy, but I appreciate it now ever so much more after having been all of the things mentioned above. If everybody held hands and stayed inside when it rained, how could anything be done for the first time?? How would anyone know the limits of humankind?

I say all this only to encourage more people to get out there and do stuff. It’s fun! To quote a boat designer who helped people with no experience build boats, “Experience begins when you start something.” Jump off the porch! Blaze your own adventure path! You can spend your whole life getting prepared, or you can do it, and make mistakes like the rest of us. I promise you’ll find the latter more rewarding in the long run. I say, that if you don’t want to bring rain gear, don’t bring it! If it rains, walk faster! If it’s cold, run! After you get wet once, you can decide whether or not it’s worth it to bring a raincoat everywhere you go, but please don’t let someone else forcefully make that decision for you. Someday, when you’re starting up a trail with all you need and nothing more, and some one says in a comically serious voice, “Make sure you have a whistle,” just smile and say, “OK, sure.” I’ll be smiling with you.

After I blurted this message out, I repeated it through the eloquent words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. “Excelsior” is about a young man who shuns the common pitfalls of ordinary life in search of a higher meaning. He chooses not to heed the warnings of his elders, or listen to the hypocrisy of organized religion, but seeks his own truth, even after death.

EXCELSIOR

The shades of night were falling fast,
As through an Alpine village passed
A youth, who bore, 'mid snow and ice,
A banner with the strange device,
       Excelsior!

His brow was sad; his eye beneath,
Flashed like a falchion from its sheath,
And like a silver clarion rung
The accents of that unknown tongue,
       Excelsior!

In happy homes he saw the light
Of household fires gleam warm and bright;
Above, the spectral glaciers shone,
And from his lips escaped a groan,
       Excelsior!

"Try not the Pass!" the old man said:
"Dark lowers the tempest overhead,
The roaring torrent is deep and wide!
And loud that clarion voice replied,
       Excelsior!

"Oh stay," the maiden said, "and rest
Thy weary head upon this breast!"
A tear stood in his bright blue eye,
But still he answered, with a sigh,
       Excelsior!

"Beware the pine-tree's withered branch!
Beware the awful avalanche!"
This was the peasant's last Good-night,
A voice replied, far up the height,
        Excelsior!

At break of day, as heavenward
The pious monks of Saint Bernard
Uttered the oft-repeated prayer,
A voice cried through the startled air,
       Excelsior!

A traveller, by the faithful hound,
Half-buried in the snow was found,
Still grasping in his hand of ice
That banner with the strange device,
       Excelsior!

There in the twilight, cold and gray,
Lifeless, but beautiful, he lay,
And from the sky, serene and far,
A voice fell, like a falling star,
       Excelsior!

for Thursday, August 15
North South Both




Biographical
•
Team: South
Jacob MacLeod
Jake hikes through the sandstone wonderland of the Wave formation in Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. Where's your hat, Jake?

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List of All Journal Entries
•
Saturday, September 28
Jacob MacLeod
National Public Lands Day
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•
Friday, September 27
Jacob MacLeod
Together Again!!
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Thursday, September 26
Jacob MacLeod
Our Last Full Day
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Sunday, September 22
Jacob MacLeod
Letter to My Family
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Thursday, September 5
Jacob MacLeod
My Bird List for the Trek
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Sunday, August 18
Jacob MacLeod
I Got It!!
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•
Thursday, August 15
Jacob MacLeod
Exelsior
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•
Monday, August 12
Jacob MacLeod
The Lesson at Eagle Peak
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Sunday, August 11
Jacob MacLeod
Snow Lake
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Thursday, August 8
Jacob MacLeod
"Attack of the Nine-Million Flies!"
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Sunday, August 4
Jacob MacLeod
Backpacking at Last
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Friday, August 2
Jacob MacLeod
El Paso and Back
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Thursday, August 1
Jacob MacLeod
A Rocky Place
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Wednesday, July 31
Jacob MacLeod
Day 1 Highlight
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Wednesday, July 31
Jacob MacLeod
The Trek Begins
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Tuesday, July 30
Jacob MacLeod
To the Mexican Border
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Sunday, July 28
Jacob MacLeod
Training Week
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