“Mike and Erica want to traverse the Coast Mountains, and they’ve asked me to join them.” Ryan said to me in the fall of last year.
As soon as Ryan told me this, I knew he would go. And so, five months ago, after unwinding from an incredible summer we spent tripping in the Canadian Arctic, and after starting the paramedic program, Ryan started amassing food and gear for this trip. By Halloween, our tiny urban living room began to look like a Famous Foods warehouse: whole milk powder, coconut milk powder, oatmeal, rice, couscous, quinoa, noodles, tea, coffee, vitamins, tomato sauce, energy bars, nuts, raisins, chocolate, honey, peanut butter… and butter. So much butter. Even our refrigerator quickly became divided into trip/non-trip foods. And then there was the cooking—every day, I would return home after work to the delicious aroma of food cooking in the crockpot… food we would not be eating for dinner: it was ‘trip food’. Over many weeks, massive volumes of sauces, soups, fruit, meat, and vegetables were reduced to almost nothing, thanks to the miracle of food dehydrators.
On Halloween, Mike and Erica came from Alaska to visit us in Vancouver and to start preparing in earnest for this trip. Ryan and Mike have a long history of trips together, and I had met and skied with Mike a couple of years ago in Whistler. They are ideal trip mates. Neither Ryan nor I had ever met Erica, but within minutes of meeting her, she excitedly whipped out her ‘cotton candy’ costume, complete with pink tutu, tights, and a large pink cone hat. Needless to say, she would add a vital component to the team—fun!
As I watched these three cement their bonds as they planned, I was left with the dreaded FOMO: the Fear Of Missing Out. Then, in January, I obtained permission for a six-week leave of absence from my teaching position in Vancouver. That’s when I finally became excited about the trip too and allowed myself to be swept away by Ryan’s endless river of excitement, energy and enthusiasm. My apprehension of spending six months apart from Ryan was gone and now, I am counting down the days until I join them for a very special six weeks.
I know they will succeed, not in any small part because of Ryan. In many ways, he is an enigma. On the one hand, he is a dreamer and a visionary, but he is a pragmatist who understands the importance of details. Ryan also brings incredible drive and ambition, but never at the expense of the group. Ryan’s resolve only strengthens when he encounters barriers: When others tell him that a trip is impossible, Ryan does everything in his power to make it happen. His gift is that he sees all problems as puzzles and uses his creativity to solve them. His endless stamina, optimism, and infectious joie de vivre make him an ideal partner.
Last Sunday, as I watched the three heading up the road, north of Pitt Lake, to spend their first night camping by the hot springs, I thought of my last conversation with Erica. She admitted that the concept of this six-month ‘mega-expedition’ was completely overwhelming and she would simply focus on putting one foot in front of the other, over and over, every day…which is exactly what she is doing right now. And eventually, they will reach Alaska.