I remember the first Outside Magazine I bought.
It was a rainy day and I’d just hiked Big Slide Mountain. On the drive home, I stopped at my favorite gear shop, The Mountaineer. My legs were covered with dark Adirondack mud as I perused the latest edition of Trail Runner Magazine. A recent college graduate piecing together three jobs, I was barely able to cover my rent, let alone make any nonessential shopping purchases. I shivered in my non-waterproof rain jacket and two sizes too small fleece I’d dug out of a thrift store free box. My stops at The Mountaineer were not to buy things, but to rejuvenate my soul.
I had a routine when I entered the store. I’d look at the magazines then move onto the women’s apparel. After I put together a stylish outfit in my mind, I’d walk over to the shoes and image how much faster I could fly down the High Peaks with the aggressive traction of a pair of La Sportivas compared to my battered New Balances. Then I’d pass under the coiled ropes that hung from the ceiling and make my way to the cozy book nook where some of my favorite authors were stacked on wooden shelves. I even liked stopping in the bathroom at The Mountaineer. Which sounds odd, but there framed photos of people standing on rocky and icy mountains edged up to one another and covered the walls. In their hands they held bandanas with The Mountaineer’s logo on it. Someday I’d take their bandana to an alpine summit.
On that rainy June day in 2009, I had a few bucks in my wallet and debated if I should spend it on an after-hike sandwich or a magazine. Words and images of far away places nourished me in ways food couldn’t. I set down the Trail Runner and picked up the glossy magazine next to it with bright yellow lettering: Outside. I scanned the articles, took it to the counter and paid the charge. I read it cover to cover and then kept it in my apartment as decoration. I loved it.
Ten years after my first encounter with Outside Magazine, I’m proud to be published by Outside Online. After I returned from Aconcagua, a conversation around minors and altitude related illnesses developed. I pitched the story on a whim, not expecting to hear back. Well, I did, and “How Young is too Young for High Altitude” debuted on a rainy June day in the Adirondacks.
I’m incredibly thankful for those involved, from the rescue to the writing. Just as I’m thankful to the mountains that inspire and challenge me, taking my hopes and fears and molding them into a story. That’s the beauty and wonder of it all.
Looking back, the summer of 2009 was one of my favorites.
I didn’t realize it at the time. I was just trying to get by and was overwhelmed with many restless nights worrying about the future. Upon reflection, that struggle, that frugality, that fear and pushing through, those visits to the mountains and The Mountaineer, my first purchase of La Sportiva trail running shoes after a summer’s worth of saving, lead me to a realization that I could be what I wanted to be. And that liberated and terrified me at the same time. I could be a writer, and it wasn’t going to happen over night. I could be a climber, and it was going to take time and perseverance. Just like acquiring a legit gear closet with real waterproof jackets. You know, the ones where a drop of water hits the surface and beads instead of absorbs. It all takes time. And that’s the true lesson waiting for us when we reach a milestone. We get to look back on all the little moments that took us there.