I keep a mental list of outdoor adventures that I want to undertake before I am too old to do so. Some of the things on my lifetime adventure to-do list will probably, once checked off, fall into the “been there, done that, got the t-shirt, don’t need to do it again” category.
Skydiving, for instance. I really want to jump out of an airplane. But, once I do, I somehow doubt that I will feel compelled to repeat the experience. Perhaps I will – I had a housemate in law school who had hundreds of jumps in his log, had his own gear, and would have done it every weekend if time and finances allowed. Maybe I too will become similarly hooked. But, I don’t think so. I want to skydive for the experience of doing it – I don’t see myself wanting to spend my weekends refining my technique.
Caving is another example. My underground experience up to this point is limited to Luray Caverns. I would like to go down deep where they don’t give tours and charge admission, to get muddy and probably a little scared exploring the world underneath our feet. I have an uncle who was an avid caver college, and spent a lot of his free time exploring and even camping in the caverns of western North Carolina. My uncle and I are alike in many ways, but I think our paths diverge here. I have a touch of claustrophobia and I just don’t see myself making a habit of squeezing through tight underground passages. I would like to do it once, however.
One thing that is not in the “been there, done that” category is paddling world class whitewater. Year after year I find myself organizing trips to raft the Gauley River in West Virginia. I have rafted the Gauley – the “Beast of the East” – 5 times. I can recite the Class V rapids on the Upper Gauley by heart: Insignificant, Pillow Rock, Iron Ring, Lost Paddle, Sweet’s Falls. I can picture them all in my mind’s eye, even sitting here in front of my computer. It’s not like the rapids change all that much from year to year, after all.
So why is whitewater rafting not on my “been there, done that” list? I think it’s because the night before every Gauley trip, I get butterflies in my stomach. I have rafted those rapids before, and I know what to expect, but if I push the bravado aside, what’s left is a healthy case of good old-fashioned nervousness. But, if the pattern holds, that nervousness will soon give way to exhiliration, and then I will return home wondering only half-jokingly if there is any way that I could support a family of 6 while working as a river guide. That is why whitewater remains on my lifetime list, to be crossed off again and again and again.
We head up to West Virginia tomorrow morning. Wish us big waves and a safe return.