I've always loved being outside. Family camping trips consisted of my older brother Daniel and I being told to "just be back to the campsite before dark."
Daniel and I knew how to get around the mountains from the ages of 7 and 5. Chopping wood, building shelters, making fish traps, and fighting bears and Bigfoot were what Daniel and I did best on those camping trips!
In my junior year of high school, Daniel finished boot camp and was deployed to Iraq. A short time later, my dad and an army chaplain came to pick me up early from school. I knew what a chaplain in dress uniform meant. Daniel was killed on May 25, 2004 while saving two Iraqi contractors during a mortar attack. He wanted to go to Iraq to help the Iraqi people, which he did with all of his heart!
For the next few years as I questioned God and tried to detach myself from things, I turned to the mountains again to push myself as far as I could go. Many times without telling my roommates where I was going.
I once disappeared in Sequoia National Forest for 12 days with nothing but a canteen, small pot, and a bag of white rice. I would often blaze my own trails and couldn't be bothered to take a topo map. I felt so lost without Daniel that sometimes I didn't care if I made it back or not.
While managing a restaurant in Visalia, CA, I was introduced to my now longtime climbing partner, Derek. He invited me to his house where he had a pretty awesome home climbing gym in his garage. My fingers have never hurt so bad in my entire life! But I wanted more. We went bouldering at Lake Kaweah, sport climbing at Square Nail, Joshua Tree, Kings Canyon, Kern Canyon, and anything else made of granite in between!
My "a-ha moment" came in 2008 during our yearly, weeklong trip to Joshua Tree National Park. I woke up around 3:00 am and couldn't go back to sleep. So I put on my headlamp on and disappeared for a few hours. I wound up on top of a terrifying, 30-ft boulder, forearms pumped, heart racing, and completely overwhelmed. I turned around just in time to catch the sunrise in the desert (put that on your to do list). The adrenaline rush has never appealed to me, and the need to push myself further and further was slowly fading.
But at that moment I knew the reason that I would climb for the rest of my life. The quiet. It was deafening at first, it was hard to concentrate. But the quiet is comforting, like I'm home. Like I'm with Daniel again!