Up on the mountain

September is my favorite time to ask people, “Where you heading this weekend?” Plans range from epic hikes and alpine climbs to trophy game hunts and everything in between.

Everything in Wyoming seems to shift a bit to accommodate the adventures calling us away from our homes and desks. Fridays are now off-limits for meetings because too many people are taking a three-day weekend. And Monday’s take a few more hours to rev up as we all drag sore legs and shoulders into the office. In fact, just last week I showed up to work on Monday with my Camelbak hydration backpack instead of my computer bag.

If you are one of the many people spending time in the mountains this fall, I want to make sure you are properly equipped with the necessary vocabulary and philosophies to experience and recount your adventures.

Vocabulary for adventuring in Wyoming:

“Up on the mountain.” This phrase refers to every mountain in Wyoming and even entire mountain ranges with dozens of peaks. Despite all the names on the map, it’s best if you refer to any location as “up on the mountain.”

“Just over the next rise.” Anytime your hiking or hunting partner asks, “How much farther are we going?” respond, “Just over the next rise.” It really doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, and you can use this phrase up to 10 times on a single mountain to fool others (or yourself if needed).

Kitchen Sink Packers. On any hiking or hunting trip there is always the person who packs every single thing they could ever possibly need. While quite slow while hiking, these folks may come to the rescue if you need an obscure piece of equipment. Just be sure they don’t get hurt and you are forced to distribute the weight of their 12-piece self-cleaning dishware set, among other “essentials.”

Wearers and Savers. Wearers are the people who bring exactly the amount of clothing layers they will need and aren’t afraid to wear them (they’ve been carrying for this purpose after all!). Savers, on the other hand, always need to have another layer in their backpack “as a last resort.” It could be the middle of the apocalypse and they won’t add that last jacket.

“That just makes me want to spit.” A good phrase for talking about controversial things when you don’t know where the other person stands on the issue. Especially good for topics like wolves, grizzly bears and wilderness boundaries.

“No matter what.” Include this phrase to emphasize a point you are trying to make. Good examples include:

“If you go down into that ravine you are going to have to come back up. No matter what.”

Keep your bike loose on the singletrack and don’t hit the trees. No matter what.

First person up makes the coffee. No matter what.

The Fun Scale is an entire philosophy about how to experience and talk about fun. Not all fun is created equally, and it’s important to know how to describe it.

Type I Fun — Fun while you’re doing it and fun to look back

This is the kind of fun that is really obvious. Riding your bike down a fast and smooth mountain bike trail. Fishing a beautiful stream and landing rainbow after rainbow. If you’re smiling while you’re doing it, it’s probably Type I Fun.

Type II Fun — Not fun while it’s happening, but fun to talk about it later

This category is for the adventures with more adversity than bliss. Examples include shooting an elk 5 miles from camp shortly before dark or running out of snacks on your 30-mile trail run. While painful in the moment, these make exceedingly better stories than plain old Type I Fun.

Type III Fun — Not fun while it’s happening, not fun to talk about

This is reserved for the rare outdoor adventure that is all suffering and no glory. Perhaps getting off route on an alpine rock climb. Or maybe being at the farthest possible point of an ORV trail when your chain breaks. In most cases Type III Fun can be avoided if you are well prepared and choose the right amount of challenge for your ability (said no Wyomingite ever). Here’s the good news, a tiny sliver of fun can be salvaged if you simply shake your head, smile at your misfortune and refer to the awful experience as Type III “Fun.”
So, as you dash out the door to hike, bike, fish, climb and hunt, I will leave you with an adventure blessing:

May you find your way to great heights,

Far, far away from the big city lights.

May your hiking boots be forever planted,

And your hunting tag always be granted.

May your backpack be light as a feather,

And your climbing shoes made of leather.

(and also sticky rubber because honestly it's better)

May your coffee be black and your bacon be crunchy,

But may your long underwear never get too bunchy.

May you feel young after drinking from the fountain,

That can only be found up on the mountain.

No matter what.

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