The Colorado 14ers (actually, all mountains) have special meaning to me. Mountains can represent challenges, solitude, community. They have acted as a tool to help me build lasting friendships, push my personal comfort zone, realize my potential, fill my never-ending hunger for adventure, and even heal me during the toughest time in my life. Whenever I have found my wheels spinning, a trip to the mountains has kicked me back into gear. Mountains are whatever I need them to be- a therapist, a test of will, a life-changer, or simply a good time with friends. They give me a chance to reconnect with nature and create lasting memories with my best friends. Hiking mountains have even allowed me to feel close to loved ones I have lost. I need mountains to fulfill my own happiness.
In 2008, my friends and I road tripped overnight from Iowa City to the trailhead of Longs Peak. Sleep-deprived and suffering from altitude sickness, the mountain nearly destroyed me. Although I failed to summit, my eyes were opened to a whole new realm of adventure opportunities. Until that road trip, I had always considered myself to be “the world’s most average man”. When I returned to the car, I decided to throw the idea of being average away and chase my full potential. Now I can say that I’ve summited multiple peaks, spent hours upon hours in the woods, become a mountain ultrarunner and adventure racer, raised a daughter to love “daddy daughter trips” (what she calls hiking), and even ate the top of my wedding cake on top of Mt. Democrat on our first anniversary. Most importantly, I’ve spread my love of mountains and wilderness to friends and family.