BY: TYLER MICHAEL
Yosemite national park
I left the sleepy town in southeastern Idaho where I spent the summer living in a bat-infested cabin by myself, and I knew immediately that I was making the right decision. Every mile I made West was bringing me closer to new places, uncertain adventures, and great people.
The weeks that followed comprised of a pretty wonderful combination of spastic activity by day and campfire recuperation by night. Our road trip team continued to grow, and so, by default, did its energy. It can be a dangerous thing, though, a group of adventurers with youthful vivacity, quixotic idealism, and a burning determination to make continuous forward progress. Particularly when paired with an unwavering distaste for anything resembling a formal plan. In fact, the only way for an organization as frantic and whimsical as ours to accomplish anything at all was to constantly, and relentlessly put the team first.
This meant biting your tongue and zipping your lip when someone suggested something that seemed astoundingly dumb. It meant letting go of the unremitting frugality of the penniless vagabond to buy the unnecessary cookies, or beer, or thanksgiving turkey that you knew would revive the team’s slumping morale. It meant sacrificing a chance to see the natural wonder you’ve been dreaming about so that your friend could spend one more night with their family.
On our backpacking excursion in Yosemite it meant forgiving your teammate who insisted they knew where they were going, only to lead you on a meandering loop through the dark, damp, scary-as-fuck forest right back to where you were 45-minutes ago. (Turns out, I was the guilty party on that little snafu.) The blame-game wasn’t gonna get us anywhere, so we buried it and trudged on for the sake of team progress.
We re-traced our steps and reached the stone-cut, switchbacking staircase—the whole trail had been uphill since we left the car, but this was a terrifyingly accurate recreation of The Winding Stair of Mordor. We stomped and sweated our way up like aflock of goats with the weight of over 40 Buds smashed into our packs because we had two birthdays to celebrate during our three-day trip. Extraneous? Yeah, probably. Purposeless? No way. Voluntary suffering for the sake of team spirit.
As we enjoyed the fruits of our labor around the communal fire ring, we got to know some of our neighbors in camp. Their expressions of heartfelt gratitude at the offering of 12 fl. oz.’s of warm barley nectar reminded us that our team’s energy was growing still, even if we would never see these new friends again. It may have cost us more effort for less personal vitamin B intake, but we were happy to bear the load and share the wealth for the sake of a collective team experience.
Two weeks after hiking out, I was back home in Phoenix. Having always been an introvert, a part of me was ready to be done with the road trip and return to a routine where the daily amount of chaos was fully under my own control. I was sitting in the backyard relaxing into my newfound peace and quiet when all of the sudden, completely unannounced, the whole gang comes blasting through the gate like an entourage of party crashers. I shot up and yelled something to the effect of “WHAT IN THE HELL ARE YOU GUYS DOING HERE?!?!” A week later I was back in the mayhem and grinning like an idiot to be part of the unending journey once again.
When camaraderie is contagious, peace and quiet be damned. Pack your shit and follow your friends to the ends of the earth. Because the team always, always comes first.