Living in this time of Covid, we find ourselves learning and changing to meet the new reality. Alpinehikers staff and guides share some perspectives on their challenges, as well as many unexpected blessings. Coming as no surprise, family is a big theme, as is getting outdoors to play, and slowing down to notice the details of our days.
ERYKA THORLEY – staff, writing from Colorado Over the past few months one of the many things that I find myself grateful for is our Covid-instigated nightly practice and sharing of gratitude at our dinner table. This is a new and surprisingly consistent practice where we take turns sharing our favorite part from the day and what we are thankful for. My 4 year old is now addicted to this ritual and very concerned if she thinks there is a chance that we’ll forget. Even our occasional visitors (at a distance, of course) are threatened with her cute 4 year old voice blaring, “we have to do frankful and favrite part!” This statement consistently brings a smile to any newcomers’ face followed by their demanded response from a very serious little lady.
HAYDEN BUCK – guide, writing from Canada When I was about twelve I received my first “mountain bike” for my birthday. It was first first real outdoor love, to the point that I rode 5 or 6 day s a week, dreamt of bicycle-themed tattoos and owning my own bike shop. I continued to ride as much as feasible while in University and right up until I left for Japan. Then I promptly stopped, though I did have a phase of riding a Fixie while in Japan and Germany.
Normally, I ski-tour as much as possible throughout the spring and into early summer. This year, ski season stopped abruptly. All of the provincial parks here in Canada were closed off and we were asked to adventure close to home and to adventure safely. I knew I needed to stay in shape for the upcoming hiking season and was fortunately loaned a bike from a good friend. I started off tentatively as trails and bikes changed significantly over my 18 year hiatus from Mountain Biking.
I now mountain bike from 3 to 6 times a week, sometimes twice a day. It’s safe to say the old flame has been rekindled and I hope to keep the flames going for years to come.
BRUNO YATES – guide, writing from France Day to day, it feels like things are gradually returning to normal here in France… except all the people in masks in the shops and on the buses. And a lot of businesses (related to tourism especially) are still suffering badly. And I, like most guides, haven’t got any work! I’ve picked up a five day tour with a group of Belgium’s next week (through a friend of a friend), and that’s it so far for the summer! Personally we’re not so badly off as there is a bit of French government funding available and Floriane is working.
The main upshot of it all for me is getting to spend much more of the summer at home with my wife (who is expecting again!) and our 18 month old daughter. Post lockdown we’ve been enjoying the lake which is a bit of a novelty for me as I’m usually away working at this time of year. Swimming, canoeing and picnics on warm summer evenings have been a breath of fresh air after 3 months of confinement. And I think it’s a great time to be present as our daughter Rose is developing so much at the moment, starting to talk, exploring, dancing, climbing (yikes!)
ZACH DAHLMER – staff, writing from Massachusetts If nothing else, going through a situation like this has given me a lot of time to reflect and to vision–to look back and take stock of my life, and look ahead and ask where to go from here. There’s a lot of meaty stuff in there, but the thing that I keep coming back to is the idea of the “diversified mediocratist”. Years ago, I had a wonderful long trail conversation with an Alpinehikers guest about this, probably on the way up to some high pass, but I can’t remember who that was! (If you read this and remember, please let me know!)
Anyhow, the gist is that I think we increasingly have a workforce of experts, specialists, and masters in a given field. It seems like we have fewer and fewer people that know how to do a whole bunch of different things. I’ve never really felt like I’ve been able to fit into that mold, and have really become a true expert in one particular vocation or profession. I’ve sometimes felt like I’ve been missing something because of that gap.
I’m definitely not one to advocate for mediocre work, but I have more than dabbled in a lot of different fields. Rather than having one professional career, I’ve worked in hospitality and tourism, education, carpentry, the restaurant business, boat maintenance and repair work, as a charter captain, a sawyer….the list keeps going. In addition to working three-quarter time for Alpinehikers, I still work part time seasonally doing sail charters in summer, and some carpentry/woodworking in the winter.
Rather than juggling so many different things, sometimes I think it would be easier to just have a regular year round nine-to-five. Not to mention whole weekends off, but I like what I do and I hesitate to give any of it up. It’s also never appealed to me to work for a company that I wasn’t personally connected to somehow. What I’ve realized more and more in all the chaos of the last four months is how much the current situation is forcing me to reexamine those choices. Of course I still have my concerns about the future, but I feel lucky, fortunate, grateful–and a little less crazy to have so many irons in the fire all the time…at least for now.
ABBY STRAUSS-MALCOLM – staff, writing from Massachusetts A couple of years ago I started teaching yoga locally in Gloucester, Massachusetts where I work remotely for Alpinehikers. At times it can feel like I’m the wizard working from behind the curtain, since potential hikers don’t meet with me in person, instead we connect over the phone and by email. Teaching yoga is a way for me to engage with the local community face-to-face and share something I’m passionate about. In mid-March I watched as the local studios scrambled to adapt to CDC regulations and quickly made the switch to live online classes through Zoom. At that point, I was clear I didn’t want to teach online and instead savored the opportunity to dive into my own personal practice.
Fast forward to early July, and I’m lucky enough to be able to teach again, this time outside and on the beach. Never would I have imagined that I’d get to connect my love of the outdoors, with my love of leading others through a practice of self-inquiry and exploration. While we’re limited in how far we can travel these days, the opportunity has arisen to savor our homes and notice things like birds chirping, waves lapping, soft sand underfoot and the gentle salty breeze.
DEB CHARLAP – staff, writing from Arizona For more than 10 years, I’ve made a 30 minute commute through the mountains from our rural part of the Arizona high country to the town of Prescott where Alpinehikers main office lives. Covid, while a big, scary influence on the world, has given my little corner of it a pretty big blessing in the form of a work-from-home office.
Through this whole spring and now summer, I’ve been home with my humans, my dogs, my cat (and now 2 new kittens!), and the LAND. I get to see the day unfold in one place, hear the birds call from different trees depending on the angle of the sun; watch new shoots become vines, become blossoms, and draw bees like clouds of effervescent honey.
As a family, we’ve kicked butt on projects we’ve been wanting to finish for literal years: a big raised-bed garden, a little deck with a gazebo, fruit trees. My son gets to see me working, and – struggling or triumphant – the act of seeking balance and the way I keep after it gives him something to model as he pursues his homeschool curriculum, and life in general. We’ve found a new way to be in the world, and while we’re eager to get back to international adventures, this slower, more intentional rhythm feels just right for now.