#42: Actions Reveal Priority (2024)

#42: Actions Reveal Priority  (1)

The freeze frame is a technique in films that forces the viewer to focus their attention on a moment in time. While stories told on the big screen employ this technique intentionally, we experience analogous, unplanned freeze frames in real life that force us to pause and reflect. The following is a recounting of recent days on the road. A journal-like string of one freeze frame after another.

After thru-hiking The Enchantments, I woke up with eyes less bloodshot than the night before. I mustve been truly exhausted because I slept for ten hours on my friend Pranads couch. Some people say I slept like a baby. I slept more like a brick.

In the evening, I picked up my mom at Sea-Tac airport. The wildfires raged on so we were forced to abandon our plans of hiking in the national parks. To get to Wyoming, we switched to an alternative route that avoided the 500 AQI air in Spokane. More reason to take one day at a time, rather than make rigid plans.

Last summer, I made a similar pilgrimage around the northwest. I started out in California and summited Mt. Shasta. Then I hiked The Enchantments (without smoke) in Washington, backpacked in Glacier National Park in Montana, and hiked the Teton Crest Trail in Wyoming. At that time, I felt lost and soulless since realizing I needed to quit my job, but paralyzed with inaction. I sought out solitude and escapism in the wilderness.

This summer, I aggressively attempted to concoct a similar trip, but instead opted for a compressed two weeks. Compared to last year, I feel connected and motivated now. Instead of wanting to get away from it all, I actually want to maximize the number of normal days. Im not trying to run away from anything anymore. Theres something about visiting the same places and noticing how youve changed since the previous year. Perhaps this is why friends we seldom see are a better observer of us than when we stare at ourselves in the mirror every morning.

The contrast between my past self and current self is quite apparent. Last year, I spent five weeks on the road with more stops and more wandering. There was a nine-day stretch where I didnt sleep in a real bed. This years trip is marked by the self-inflicted pressure to stay on top of my work and no longer needing to escape. In Jackson Hole, instead of backpacking the Teton Crest Trail again, I trail-ran a 20-mile loop through two canyons. Last year, I avoided returning back to society by stretching out time in alternate worlds. This year, I needed to keep one foot in reality at all times. I tried to do everything. All together, all at once.

August 23rd

After spending the morning in Boise, we drove to Twin Falls, the last stop before Jackson Hole. After checking into the airbnb, I was due for a 6 mile training run.

#42: Actions Reveal Priority  (2)

I ran ahead while my mom walked. Afterwards, we needed to swing by Walmart for some cooking oil. It would be first home-cooked meal in a week. There was a palette of Gatorade in the middle of the store on sale. $1.68 instead of $2.68. My mom said it was a good deal. I explained $1.68 isnt that cheap for Gatorade and how companies will mark up before discounting just to create the illusion of a sale (especially for Black Friday). We didnt eat dinner until 9pm, a reflection of my recent tendency to cram too many things into too little time.

Then we got the call from my uncle. My 88-year-old grandma, who has lived with us since I was 5, had a 102簞F fever and needed to go to the hospital. Shes fine now, but in the moment, it was spooky. My mom needed to get back by the next morning in case it got worse. The best option was a non-stop flight from Boise to San Francisco at 8am. Just a couple hours ago we were arguing over a $2 sport drink on sale; now I was furiously clicking buttons to spend hundreds of dollars on a flight and hotel. I loaded the dishes into the dishwasher and pulled my wet clothes out of the washing machine. We didnt even touch the beds. After arriving back to Boise after midnight, I laid out my damp clothes across every surface of the hotel room and passed out.

August 24th

After dropping my mom off at the airport, I got another hour of mediocre sleep. I lingered around in Boise in case I needed to drive home that same day. Fortunately by noon, my grandmas fever had stabilized and it seemed safe to get back on the road. I got to Sugar City, Idaho in the early evening. There was a high school football game going on across the street. Combined with the garden in the backyard and lack of noise (besides the announcer), I was teleported into a small town scene. Before I went to bed, I boiled five eggs in the microwave (there was no stove). Google told me to add salt into the water so the eggs wouldnt explode. I meticulously peeled each egg and refrigerated them in a ziploc bag. My last thought that night was wondering if theyd go bad during the drive.

#42: Actions Reveal Priority  (3)

August 25th

I try to go for a walk first thing every morning. On this occasion, I walked across the street to the schools track. For some reason, I decided to do a lap barefoot. Maybe it would train the little muscles in my feet or something.

After calling to double check, I showed up at BYU Idahos rec center. I was pissed off when they wouldnt let me lift because I confirmed with them, but also because I didnt budgeted enough time to drive to another gym before having to check out. I improvised by going to the nearby park. Why a park? I figured they would have at least something that could serve as a makeshift pull-up bar. It was mid-day and the playground was swarming with kids and their parents. As a tourist, minority, and random dude without a kid, I avoided potential judgemental glares by heading across the park for the wooden canopy that covered a series of picnic tables. The wood beams that held up the canopy were painful to hang onto and covered my hands in soot, but I managed to crank out a few sets without catching any blisters. At some point, a construction crew sat down to eat their lunch. Some were eating sandwiches out of their cooler. Others had their own personal pizza from Little Caesars. I made eye contact with one of them and he gave me a nod of acknowledgement.

I arrived in Jackson by the afternoon. After setting up my tent, I strolled around Jenny Lake in flip flops while carrying my kindle. I enjoyed receiving the silent stares from hikers judging me for looking out of place, knowing that the next day I was about to hike something they probably wouldnt consider tackling. I realized it was the first time in a while that I had no agenda and could just simply putter. Before crawling into my tent, I made sure my water bladder was filled and snacks were carefully curated.

#42: Actions Reveal Priority  (4)

August 26th

My alarm went off at 5:55am. There was no specific time I needed to be up, but I knew that Id appreciate getting ahead of the crowds. Even with an early start, I barely snagged one of the last parking spots at the trailhead. I gradually ascended into Paintbrush Canyon. The same route but with forty fewer pounds on my back felt familiar, yet different.

On this particular day, my body felt like a well-oiled machine. Without any other hikers or music to occupy my attention, my mind emptied as the lower body automatically entered a repetitive trance. To keep myself properly fueled up, but also lighten my pack, I erred on the side of eating more than necessary. At my first break, I had one of five hard-boiled eggs, some jerky, and a handful of mixed nuts. On my next break, I had two more eggs, a banana, and a bar. Also - more jerky, more nuts.

At 10:30am, I reached the top of Paintbrush Divide, sitting at 10,700ft. This guy who ran past me earlier took a few photos of me perched on the ridge. We learned each others name through the process of airdropping the pics. Will first came to Jackson thinking hed be a ski bum for just one season, but somehow one season has turned into nine. Hes thinking about leaving for the winter to somewhere warmer like Nicaragua or Costa Rica. Its not just the weather thats wearing him down though. He lightheartedly rants about the $27 he spent this morning at the local market on just a sandwich, sports drink, Clif bar, and meat stick. Theres a twinge of bittersweetness.

Now that gravity is finally on my side, I started to pick up the pace and get into a slow jog. Theres a decent amount of traffic on the narrow trail from backpackers heading in the opposite direction. At Lake Solitude, I experienced the simple joy of air-drying my feet while fueling up on more dried fruit, jerky, and nuts. All the eggs were gone by this point. I wanted to eat them all early on since it had been over 24 hours since they were last in the fridge.

About 13 miles in, I paused to orient myself, but also put my airpods in. I knew from hiking the same trail a couple years ago that most of the views were already behind me. Plus I could use the extra boost from music. Before I took off, I offered to take a picture for a family. I think Wills kindness at Paintbrush Divide catalyzed my reciprocity.

With my running playlist, the rest of the miles started to flow. Trail-running is new to me and its more flow and less pain than I thought. When you run downhill, theres barely enough time to think about your next step. Youre able to carry momentum rather than partially brake every step. The demand of finding proper footing among uneven terrain requires full presence. Its like playing a video game but in real life.

After completing the 20-mile loop and freshening up at my car, I headed into town. Ive been waiting for this moment for weeks. Last year, after the Teton Crest Trail, I treated myself to Haagen-Dasz, so of course I had to run it back. The treats that I accumulated from hotels and various airbnbs throughout the trip played an essential role in elevating my double scoop ice cream cone: Andes chocolates, Krave cereal, Milano cookies, to enjoy with the ice cream.

#42: Actions Reveal Priority  (6)

I planned to bathe in the lake, but the storm clouds were rolling in so instead I paid $7 to shower at the rec center. The fact that a rec center exists in Jackson is bizarre to me in a town where the billionaires are forcing out the millionaires.

I drove to Whole Foods for dinner, but sadly the hot bar was empty. I learned that the dude that usually does it didnt show up for work. I went to the deli counter instead; the sign is closed but the guy says I can get something if I order quickly. When I ask for a piece of chicken, he asks which piece to which I say the biggest you can find. I watched him diligently flip through chicken breasts like hes at a vinyl record store. I appreciate that. The standard deal is one main and two sides for $12. He lets me have a third side for free. The plastic knife is too wiggly to actually cut into the slightly overcooked chicken breast. But hey - at least I know theyre on top of their food safety. This healthy Whole Foods dinner isnt enough calories to replenish me. With a sliver of daylight left, I sit in my trunk at the town square snacking on whatevers left. Theres a few families bickering over which restaurant to eat out at. I just enjoy my tangerines that I saved from the hotel breakfast two days ago.

August 27th

I woke up at 5:30am before my alarm went off. With the bonus time, I packed up my tent instead of coming back for it later. Its all wet still from the overnight rain so instead of packing it in, I tossed it into the backseat. Theres already a ton of tourists clamoring over the infamous barn. Im reminded why I spent yesterday alone in the mountains.

#42: Actions Reveal Priority  (7)

When I strategically stopped in Twin Falls for Costco Gas, I impulsively decided to eat at Golden Corral. I needed to pay off my veggie debt (lack of veggies consumed in the past week). Im reminded that all it takes is a simple $16 all-American buffet to experience joy. I expected to fall into a food coma, but felt completely fine on the remaining five hours to Winnemuca.

Actions Reveal Priority

Thoughts and emotions are fleeting. They seemingly appear out of nowhere and can sometimes be misleading. How much should we trust self-ascribed labels? Figuring out who you are is not a matter of playing identity bingo by placing chips on personas like tech bro, gym rat, or granola girl. Its much simpler, yet harder.

Instead of trying to think about who you are and what you want, look at what youve been doing. The empty pint of Ben & Jerrys in the trashcan says more than any digital badge or diet announcement on social media. On the other hand, a tangible track record of progression refutes the imposter syndrome thats been buzzing in your head.

Theres a temporal component to it. The past weeks say more about who you are today than what you did five years ago. Looking at what youve done recently reveals a breadcrumb trail that eventually leads you to a silhouette of yourself.

During my road trip, there were the many Starbucks pit stops in an attempt to keep up with the endless stream of information. I wish Id patronize mom & pop coffee shops more, but I value the consistency and reliability more. Choosing to day hike instead of backpack so I could stay plugged in to society. Having a podcast or audiobook on instead of staring at the horizon aimlessly.

When overlaid with what I did last year in the same places, they reveal who I am, right now. Someone in existence on a liminal plane. Straddling the past life of wandering adventures and the current life of self-elected routine. Someone who is more motivated than ever before, but also fearful of losing momentum.

The inverse, the things you havent been doing, are just as indicative. For example, with all the recent travels, I havent done proper yoga in the last five weeks and I realized that it overlaps near perfectly with this new chaotic urgency in my head. I just signed myself up for a class.

When I scroll through my journal of past days, I see someone who has rediscovered the joy in simple things. An $8 ice cream after a 20-mile trail run tastes better than a $100 compd business dinner. But I also see someone trying to do too much. Someone who needs to drill in the David Allen quote, You can do anything, but not everything. by writing it 100x on the chalkboard like Bart Simpson.

#42: Actions Reveal Priority  (8)

Heading Home

Once I could see the Tetons in the distance, I was reminded of why Ive come here now for three summers and two winters. As I was driving across Teton Pass, I called my mom and told her I was considering staying a bit longer in Jackson. Theres a certain feeling that these steep jagged mountains evoke. Its this feeling that Im made to do more. I think theres a reason why slang like gnar, stoke, and even vibes get tossed around so much. Perhaps there are linguistic hurdles in accurately communicating a feeling that can only be understood through lived experience. The alpine spires command my presence and remind me to continuously explore.

In theory, I couldve stayed a few more nights. There were no deadlines, in-person meetings, or hangouts with friends to attend to. But with the satisfying 20 miler under my belt and the self-reassurance that Id be back soon enough, I decided to head home. I wanted to see my grandma.

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#42: Actions Reveal Priority  (2024)


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