Welcome, Don’t Make Yourself Comfortable | Into the Backcountry

If you’re reading this article, you’re probably not going to make your Everest summit bid this year. After all, May “‘tis the season” to get dragged up the world’s highest mountain by a Sherpa. Fear not though, you don’t need to be sipping bottled oxygen in a human traffic jam at 29,000 feet to find life-changing adventure. All you need are a few unattainable goals to push you out of your comfort zone … fat boy! (At least that’s what my inner voice, who sounds amazingly like a Marine drill sergeant, likes to tell me.)

So now that your DVR has run out of Top Chef episodes, it’s time to start figuring out what you’re going to do with yourself this summer. Here are a few ideas I’ve been tossing around for this year’s adventures:

  1. Mountain bike to work more than 50 times before November.
  2. Complete a bike-assisted dayhike of Bondcliff in New Hampshire.
  3. Bike from Arlington, Massachusetts, to Provincetown, using the Bay Circuit Trail and the Cape Cod Rail Trail.
  4. Podium in my age group at a mountain bike race.
  5. Kayak from Lake Memphremagog to the Connecticut River on the Northern Forest Canoe Trail.
  6. Find a rock face for top-rope climbing within a 15-minute bike ride of my house.
  7. Build a mountain biking trail.
  8. Complete an overnight hiking and camping trip where rain is forecast the entire time (should be easy in Vermont).
  9. Ride a Big Wheel down the Mount Washington Auto Road.
  10. Ride a Big Wheel up the Mount Washington Auto Road.

OK, I’m pretty sure those last two might get me arrested, so the Big Wheel plan is still a work in progress. Also, considering that there will probably be more than three people in my age group at any given mountain bike race, I might need to figure out how to go faster than the local nursing home race team to get a whiff of the podium (although, now that I’ve said that, I’m sure I’m going to get my ass kicked by a local, ass-kicking nursing home team).

But that’s the thing about lofty goals: they make you push a little harder. Sometimes you even get to surprise yourself. Last year, for example, I decided I would ride 1,000 mountain biking miles. I had no idea if it was possible or even what it would entail. I had probably never ridden more than half that distance in a given summer. In the end, it came down to a few cold, dark, miserable evenings in late October: those nights when a couple hours in front of the flat-screen TV or even on the stationery trainer would have been much more “comfortable.”

Instead, I was discovering the world as it exists just outside my door on a dreary late October night. And it is magic. But don’t take my word for it. Go make your own list and find out what’s been waiting for you just outside of your comfort zone.

Andy Howard

Andy Howard grew up in the woods of the Northeast Kingdom and learned at an early age that skiing and biking in the trees is fun. After living in North Carolina and Georgia, he eventually found his way back to New England and now lives in the Boston area where he balances a legal career with his love for exploration and adventure.