There are many things that can snatch the life from outdoors lovers no matter how prepared they are: keeper holes that don’t let go until it’s too late, falling rock or a forgotten knot, two wheels colliding with four, a turn down the wrong trail in the middle of nowhere, and, although extremely rare, the managed and decidedly safe snow at the local ski hill.
The last time I saw Carl was along Idaho’s Lochsa River almost four years ago. We were driving with our then 1-year-old son along Highway 12 headed for a hike when a hitchhiking kayaker caught our attention. It was mid-week in May and the river and road were mostly empty.
We pulled over and offered the stranger a ride, but it turned out not to be a stranger after all. It was Carl, a fixture in the Inland Northwest outdoors community. We gave him a shuttle upriver so that he could make another solo run down the Lochsa’s wild, spring whitewater. On that brief ride together, we swapped life updates and stories of recent adventures, promising to float or ride together soon. Unfortunately, I never made the time to make those outings happen.
Fast forward to January 2020. A sick feeling flooded my senses after hearing about the skiers who had just lost their lives in the Silver Mountain avalanche and the pain their family and friends were going through. Then with the release of the names—Scott Parsons, Molly Hubbard, and Carl Humphreys—it felt a lot worse.
I had only hung out with Carl a handful of times since first meeting on the Spokane River 15 years ago, but his passion for getting so many days out on water, bike, or skis and his friendly, fun-loving personality were legendary.
There are many dangerous things in the places where we play that could cut our adventures short one day. But there are serious dangers lurking on the edges of our everyday lives, too. And I’m not talking about our daily car rides or the diabetes and heart disease-inducing American lifestyle (some of the biggest killers that should really concern us).
The everyday peril that sneaks up on us is the missed opportunity to connect with friends and family and get outside to our favorite places while we can. That turned down invite to go mountain biking or join on a surf trip. Choosing work or sleep over a powder day or backyard barbeque with friends.
It sure feels true to me that some of the most dangerous things are not doing what we love and never experiencing the elation that time outside with your people can deliver in plenty. And, worst of all, living one day with regret for all those times you could have said yes.
Originally published as “Dangerous Things” in the March 2020 print edition.