A Letter from Sunrise Camp.

Sometimes, life runs away from you.  Too much this, a little more of that, and next thing you know, the horse has bucked the reins and you don’t know where you’re riding off to. This summer has been a roller-coaster ride for me: running my first ultra, applying to medical school, moving, finding success in work, really learning how to ride a mountain bike, and discovering the need for change in my personal life. For a minute there, it got away from me, and I wondered what the hell I was doing with myself, but thanks to the wonder of epiphany, I found a moment of perspective in which I saw the need for change. While climbing through a lonely forest wet with an early rain, stewing in my effort, I saw that I was trying to do too much, and had given too little thought to what was really important to me.

That which is important to me are these: health, ambition, tribe, and adventure.  I need a powerhouse of a body to be happy, and it has to be well-fed and well-rested. I draw my daily energy from my ambitions: to make a superlative performance in work and sport, and through these, to inspire and help others. In my ambition, I give birth to adventure which sweeps me up and convinces me time and again that we are not cogs in a hopeless machine. And finally, I need a tribe, a community, to surround me and build with me a world in which we help each other to dream and succeed.

Since that mountain bike ride, I’ve made some changes, most of which have meant saying no to those people, commitments, and opportunities that don’t fuel me. It seems callous to say no and for own well-being cut ourselves free of long-held ties, but if with gritted teeth we make the cut too soon we find ourselves floating higher in the water, moving more swiftly towards our goals unburdened.

I am proud of doing less.


When we do less, we can do more more thoroughly. The thoughtless overachiever may check more boxes from the list, but as accomplishments fall by the wayside they’re forgotten as quickly as undergraduate calculus. Better, I think, to choose your tribe and your path and to feel these selectively and deeply.  Those things that we really do imprint themselves on us, and in serving our tribe, we intertwine ourselves with others.

Who is your tribe? Do you surround yourself with the few who inspire you or the many who give you the false confidence of mediocrity? What do you give to the world? For, as my father says, there are no luggage racks on the hearse.  A name is forgotten, but the heart entangled with that of others creates a story that extends well beyond the grave.

As the seasons change, summer into fall, I will be drawing close to me those that I care about. I want to give back to those who make my world so wonderful, and I want to practice improving theirs. I hope that you’ll consider joining me.

To my readers, among those who inspire me.

Sunrise Camp, Mt Adams, WA. 05:45, 8/26/13, moments before sunrise.


Category: Adventures, Travel, & Writing



  1. “Less is more” comes to mind when reading this well put message (and amazing sunset photos) together into this post. And good for you ft figuring out how to ride a Mtn bike. I’m still working on that one.

  2. Perhaps your “lapse in writing” ties in perfectly here, right?
    But, to my real questions, which are regarding the Tribes, and something I struggle with:
    what about people that are “just” friends. Perhaps they don’t inspire you or anything, but they’re simply…friends. I think that’s explaining enough.
    the other thing is this: your pursuits are mainly done in the mountains. probably often solo. Do you find your solitary time (or more-or-less solitary time) in the mountains eventually subtracting from your relationships? Because you go from school to work or whatever, and then in your “free time” you often have the choice–mountains or friends. Does that sound familiar? If so, how do you reconcile that with the importance of Tribe?

    1. About those who are ‘just’ friends: I think it safe to say that anyone that we choose to have in our lives we have for a reason. Otherwise, they would simply have drifted away like so many other people who’ve forgotten our names as well. The important thing seems to be that they bring something good to our lives. That needn’t be inspirational feat of athleticism or stunning ambition; sometime we need a good listener who is our sympathizer, or an energetic person whose presence stirs up our own energy.

      Of course, on the other hand, there are those who surround us out of habit, comfort, or insecurity. I, certainly, have brought people into my life not because they inspired me but because they were inspired by me, and I wanted that ego boost. Or because I fear to be Alone In This World, etc.

      Just ask, I suppose, why they’re really there.

      As to my time in the mountains ostensibly subtracting from my relationships– It seems like this is only the case for that latter type of ‘just’ friend. I used to have an affinity for going it alone when I felt comfortable, but now I do so mostly when I can’t find someone dumb enough to come with me. I’ve learned that, at least for me, my experiences in the mountains are much more rich when I share them with a partner. That may mean that I have fewer relationships in total, but the friendships that I have with my partners are much deeper for the common experience.

      My preference is for a smaller, tightly knit tribe, rather than a big and empty one.

      It’s true, though, that there are those who can’t come into the hills with us because they don’t want to or are unable. If we want those people in our lives, and hope that they will understand our absences, then also we have to sacrifice our own preferences at times to be with them. C’est la vie. But what is friendship if not a mutual willingness to sacrifice for each other?

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: