It was almost a decade ago now when an unexpected moment in time would change the direction of my life. My sweet-natured nephew, Burley who was 5 at the time and is 13 now, was attending his preschool. At the time It was unordinary for me to dedicate much time to anyone else but myself. However, on this day when I was summoned to pick the Bur man up things changed.
Upon my arrival at the La Casita preschool a teacher of Burley’s, who knew me as someone who loved to hike asked him “Does your Uncle ever take you hiking?” His response had a tone to it that did not indicate any personal disappointment, but it was a clear “no”. What I felt at that moment was interesting. My self-pride was challenged in an unfamiliar way. It hurt inside. This kid looked up to me like no one else had in my life, and I, for some reason had not yet included him in the wildness that I thrived. I knew this day would mark a turning point in my relationship with him and the relationship I had with myself.
And so it began, at the spry age of 7, we would begin our wilderness adventures together. What started as a small one-night trip in the Never Summer wilderness would turn into the greatest shared adventures of my life. After such a successful first outing it was clear that we would do this with more frequency. At the time he was residing in CO, and I was in Santa Fe so our next outing wouldn’t be until the following summer. A memorable one it was though. We ended up on the Durango/Silverton narrow gauge train. He, my best friend Marco, his son Keegan (age 7), and I would embark on a 35-mile trek in the Weminuche Wilderness with a goal to reach the Continental divide at 13,000 feet. As with all new endeavors, we learned an incredible amount. About ourselves, our gear, our relationships with one another, and our connection to the land. This was Burley’s first big trip and there was great preparation beforehand. Thanks to his mom and dad he was geared up adequately. I’ll never forget how proud he was taking those first steps and the confidence he took with him as he hauled his loaded pack. This was the true beginning of a relationship, trust, and a bond that will be with him and me forever.