Last week, I joined a group of Gossamer Gear’s Trail Ambassadors for a retreat to the canyons of southeast Utah. Many of these Trail Ambassadors are currently schmoozing it up at the Outdoor Retailer Winter Show in Salt Lake City, but I only stuck around for the less overwhelming group activities with an amazing bunch of hikers.
After an evening visiting one of my co-instructors from NOLS, I met Glen Van Peski, the founder of Gossamer Gear, in Salt Lake City, then drove four hours to Moab, passing mountains, mesas, and canyons along the way. We arrived at a house that Grant, the president of the company, had rented for the occasion. I was originally pretty hesitant to join the event because I can’t stand being put in close quarters with people I’ve never met before (and sometimes even with people I have met), but the opportunity to meet many of the people on the guest list was too enticing. Luckily, after the first night, when everyone was so excited to meet each other, the night owls and the morning people separated the sleeping quarters well enough to make everybody happy.
And what a crew it was! We had AT and PCT record-setting hikers Snorkel and Anish, writer and podcaster Disco, BackpackingLight guru Will Rietveld, Arizona Trail gateway communities ambassador Sirena, The Real Hiking Viking, and many more. Most of the ambassadors, in fact, are not superhuman hikers– they’re just people who really love to hike, and love to do it with light packs. They’re all super enthusiastic, and all love to hear about each other’s stories and lives. This is the kind of group that makes me very happy to be a part of a hiking community.
Several of us (mostly those I mentioned in the previous paragraph) are what I like to call “Trail Famous”, which generated some entertaining discussion. Trail Fame is very different from Actual Fame, because it’s a vague kind of notoriety among a small group of people. For instance, a good bunch of Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail hikers know my name, and know that I make apps for them, but they don’t have any clue who I am. Even at the Trail Ambassador retreat, I heard from a few people, “I thought you’d be a lot older”. (On the AT last summer, I also heard, “I envisioned you as a middle-aged, overweight guy with Doritos stains on your shirt”. Sorry to disappoint!) But along the same line, it was great to be able to put a face with each name I’d heard so often before, and, not surprisingly, find that all of these hikers are just normal people who do what they do really well because they love to do it.
Will planned and led each of the four day-hikes, which allowed most of us to relax our brains and follow his route-finding through the canyons. There’s quite a bit to say about the alien landscape of the Utah canyons, but I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking. In the meantime, hanging out with all these passionate hikers has made me itch to get on a long trail again.