I grew up with TV. I don’t know how old I was when I started watching, but I remember spending a lot of time with Kermit and Fonzie and Jack, Chrissy, and Janet. I remember being ushered to bed after Walter Cronkite shared his mantra, “That’s the way it is.” I didn’t know it as I was growing up, but this ubiquitous watching was embedding a sedentary pattern into my body, mind, and spirit. My parents would always encourage me to “get out” and get away from the screen, and I did this during the day, but I still probably ended up being exposed to two to three hours of TV daily from the ages of 1 to 12. I estimate that I ingested about 5,000 hours of television before hitting puberty.
When I was in high school, I was friends with people who were outdoorsy. Some talked about taking a bike trip in Maine, others of an adventure at sea, and others still of a NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) trip to learn how to rock climb. As I saw photos of their epic adventures, which included cute boys; sun-kissed, wind-blown faces; and bright eyes on a monumental journey, my call to the wild began to take hold. At age 16, I applied to attend a mountaineering course in Montana with Outward Bound. I trained for a couple of months before the trip. I’d been smoking cigarettes so I figured swimming would be a good training sport (yeah, real smart). I swam like nobody’s business, but it in no way prepared me for 14 days of hiking that entailed traversing 110 miles of rocky, barren terrain. When I spent the first day trudging up a slope of the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness with tears streaming down my face and a 60-pound pack on my back, huffing and puffing the whole way, I knew I was in for a rough ride.