Days of My Youth

This past Thursday I celebrated another lap around the sun, entering my early 40s…41 to be exact. As has been the case most of my life, I don’t feel like my official age. That is not to say I am running around trying to act an age from year’s gone by (Wooderson). Rather, I’ve never taken myself serious enough or felt the weight we place on arbitrary milestones of existence. As captured in a saying my brother and I share “You are only as old as you act”. It is a bit of the inverse of what your parents or perhaps a significant other might advise you to do, which is to act your age. If you act old, you are old. I’m not suggesting the fountain of youth is found in the bottom of a beer glass at 3am on a Wednesday night, but if you find yourself reading the fine print on your retirement portfolio in bed at 8pm on a Saturday, you might want to do some life assessment.

Yes there are the inevitable signs of aging that can’t be ignored or avoided. The ground seems to be harder when I crash these days and injuries tend to linger longer than they used to. I’ve also had to change certain behaviors such as consuming post-ride pop-tarts smothered in peanut butter and increase the miles-per-beer justification ratio.  I would also throw in there the struggle of maintaining relevant fashion sense, but that implies one had any to begin with. Plus jeans and t-shirts are pretty timeless aren’t they?

 It is my hypothesis that the best way to out run the age monster is to not take yourself too seriously, and just keep going. Sure you might not be as fast as you used to or are able to go as far, but avoiding the gravitational pull of couch time is crucial. Some of the people I admire most and look to as examples are still getting after it running marathons, skiing, and mountain biking. All the while never taking themselves too serious, with a smile on their face and a mischievous glint in their eye. A few years back Yeti produced a story about rafting and skiing guide John Shocklee now in his 50s and still living a life based around the outdoors. Like many of his profession, John leads a simple life in Silverton Colorado opting for the experience of the outdoors over more superficial trappings. I’ve shown the story to multiple people who respond to my “when I grow up” admiration with looks of confusion and perhaps disbelief. What they often miss though is the vibrancy that comes with bucking social age norms and continuing to get after it. So while I might be racing in the masters category these days it is usually in a Hawaiian shirt and a smile.   

Wait for it…

Photographs are moments in time and as a photographer we are always looking for that perfect moment. The more my photography has developed the more I’ve realized to capture those really incredible moments requires a lot of prep-work. Whether its scouting a location, pre-visualizing a shot, or tracking weather patterns, great shots more often than not don’t just happen. Even street photography, which is the antithesis of the “in the moment” shots is likely the result of time spent in a location, watching and planning. Sure, there are those spontaneous right-place-at-the-right-time shots, but for the vast majority of photos that capture your attention time is required.

Time of course is a finite resource. Well, I should rephrase that. For me time for photography is a finite resource. Part of that is due to the responsibilities of life (i.e. photography ain’t payin’ the bills!) and part is my life struggle of having more hobbies than hours in a week. So while in theory I will wait for the absolute perfect moment to shoot photographs, the reality is most of my shots come during the small windows of time that I am able to carve out. Still, I do my best to think through and do the prep work necessary for a great photograph.

The other week we were out on a group run along the Boise Greenbelt around sunset. The sky was amazing as the sun painted golden light on the peaked fall colors along the river. “Dang, where is my camera!” I thought to myself. As the scene unfolded my mind was going in a million directions of potential photographs and my eyes looking everywhere but at the path ahead. In order to avoid a face plant, I made a few mental notes of potential shots and to come back to the spot at the same time of day. 

Not surprising a day later became a week later and in that time the days got a little bit shorter and a few fronts passed through bringing rain and wind. I checked the weather the day I finally made time to go back to the park which called for no rain and partly cloudy skies. Perfect. Reality though when I packed the truck and headed out – full cloud mono-grey skies. As I walked to the spot that had first captured my attention I noticed that the trees had lost a good amount of their leaves and colors were a little past their prime. The air was let out of my enthusiasm balloon as I searched around for something that might work. I composed a few photographs near the spot I had remembered and while all was not lost, it just didn’t have the same impact I saw the previous week. After Dana and I checked out a few last spots we made our way back to the truck and past where I had been shooting ten minutes prior. The sun had just made its way below the horizon throwing a redish last light into the air. I quickly set my tripod down and composed a few photographs knowing that the light would only last a few minutes. 

As the last of the light faded I looked up from the camera and reflected on the moment. The experience reminded me some important lessons that have been taught to me through photography. One lesson was given to me by Michael DeYoung during a photography workshop and that is when you think you’re done shooting and you see everyone else packing up to go home, stick around a few more minutes, because that is the time when the good unplanned stuff usually happens. Another lesson of photography is to let go of expectations and remain flexible. Pre-planning and working for a shot is important, but no matter how much preparation you do, things can and mostly like will change. The moments are what lies before you.


For many folks fall is the most popular of seasons and perhaps more than any other has its own distinct experiences. Vivid color displays put on by Mother Nature, the opportunity to break out the sweaters and boots, and pumpkin spiced everything are signs that fall is in full swing. While I do enjoy a good pumpkin stout (weird I know) and love my flannel, there is something more fundamental about fall that makes it my favorite season. As days become shorter and the weather less predictable, fall is the season where there is a heightened sense of appreciation because every ride or run might just be your last for the year.

One of my favorite rides in the Boise front is Around the Mountain (AtM), a circumnavigating cross country ride at Bogus Basin, our local ski resort. It has also become one of my favorite end-of-season rides, with cooler temperatures, fall colors, and fewer trail users. AtM also embodies the uncertainty that comes with the fall season, more so than trails closer to town that can be ridden well into December. Still September, I wasn’t sure I was going to have the opportunity to ride AtM one last time. An unexpected front plummeted temperatures and brought snow to the mountains. While winter was still several months away, if we continued on a cycle of storms it could have easily made the trails too muddy to ride and brought the season in the high country to a close. For the next few weeks I intently watched the forecast and routinely checked in on the resort’s condition camera. Conditions were looking promising and then in a moment of celestial alignment, temperatures rose and the sun shined through on Columbus Day, a federal holiday of all days. 

I waited until early afternoon to head up the mountain in hopes of warmer temperatures, dry trails, and smaller crowds. As a rounded the last of the many turns up to Bogus, the parking lot was pretty empty save for two trucks with bike racks and a handful of visitors taking pictures. My excitement grew as I got everything together and headed up the start of what had shaped up to be a great ride. As I switched back on the opening climbs and my heart rate rose I was quickly reminded that the season was a little farther advanced at that elevation with cooler temps and lingering snow in the shadows. Many of the leaves had past their peak, no doubt a result of the early freeze. The trails were in great shape though with the previous week’s moisture providing just the right amount of traction. I quickly found myself lost in the trail as it rolls in and out of the woods giving way to great views of distant snowcapped peaks. I stopped multiple times to take in the views, take a few shots, and generally appreciate how good of a day it was. 

As the trail flowed on I found myself at the apex of the ride, that point where your endorphin levels are at their peak, the gas gauge is just starting to dip, and the legs are just starting to feel the climbs. As is often the case, it was at this point that I ran into the “closed trail ahead” sign. Crap. Luckily the resort is small enough and I’ve spent enough time there to generally know what route would get me back to the parking area. As I began the grind up the fire road I was reminded of the fleetingness of fall. The sun began its decent lengthening the shadows and dropping the temperatures. I was confident I’d make it back before dark, but with the climbing ahead and my lack of additional layers I wasn’t interested in testing that theory. After a few more switchbacks the fire road intersected a familiar trail from ski season that would take me towards the lodge. I finished out the ride cruising down one of the resort’s flow trails, my face grinning and by that point my legs burning a little more. 

Back at the parking lot, I sat on the tailgate and gave myself a mental high-five. I couldn’t get over how lucky I was to have such ideal conditions for my favorite fall ride. Looking up at the mountain I was even more thankful reflecting on a summer full of riding and knowing that before too long I’d be swapping out bike shoes for ski boots. The day was a great reminder that fall is fleeting and fickle, giving you one more week or one more month. It certainly has a way of making you appreciate the here and now though, which is why my favorite season is fall. 

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