At times when my mind is quiet and I can think more clearly with no distractions, I like to recall the days that shaped me into the outdoors man I am today.
When I started with Thera Trex wilderness experience challenges, I was young, lean and full of myself. I believed I could walk on water and no mountain was too high for me to climb. Man do I miss those days. Ignorance is indeed bliss. I guess its like you learn in boot camp, you think you can-then you think you can't-then you learn you might-then you prove you will. It's a learning thing.
Charles Cataldo (Professor Cataldo) was my friend and mentor. His strange ways of teaching were so subtle yet powerful. Like most great teachers, he let you discover the truth for yourself, whatever that truth was to you at least.
The young men and women we guided into the thick wilderness of Northern New York would be taught the values of independence and the rewards of team work. Many that started out scared and doubtful would end thankful and reassured that life was there for them to make of it what they wished.
These days of self testing, teaching, blazing trails and living off the land shaped my perceptions of what the wilderness was for and how I fit into it.
Teachers like Tony Straka who led rappelling routes into deep dark mine shafts or JJ Jackson from Ghana African who could prepare a common onion about three dozen ways and make them all delicious.
Cross training exorcises like compass course, animal snares, first aide, edible plants and shelter making were all part of the early eighties for me. The Adirondacks and High peaks region of the Catskills were as common as a cross town trip to me. Days turned into weeks and my travels with and without the group became a semi regular event. Spring, summer, fall and winter, It was all the same to me. Mt. Marcy was evil in the cold weather but it made me strong and taught me to make the trip about the trip and not just getting to the top.
The staff was a well rounded group of "contributors" that were never just along for the ride. They were expected to be part of the action in whatever way they were best suited. I recall making a chocolate souffle in a Dakota hole along the Hudson river on a cool fall night. It was terrible and wonderful all at the same time.
Camping in storms or the heat of the forest in August was a character builder. Even now at times when I am faced with a new challenge that makes me feel as if I am not up to it, I think about four days with little in my stomach except what I might have collected along the stream bank or found under a rock and I think sure I can do this why not?
One never knows where we will be touched by a life shaping event. It could even be while alone in the middle of the great wilderness. Hungry, dirty and tired but aware and alive. Thera Trex and subsequent like adventures made me the man I am today.
I am grateful to all that walked with me on those trips, students and teachers alike.
I still remember you.