Basically A Tracker

Some things in life you just have to learn the hard way. I’m one of those people who carries their wallet attached to their phone. It’s like not wearing a condom; might feel slick but you’re risking it all.

Knowing I’m not swiping any VISAS in the forest I’m always conscious of taking the wallet part off when I go on hikes. Almost always.

One evening last week I made it a point to get back to camp early enough to have a nice evening hike to a peak and enjoy the sunset. I’d been sent a couple fire podcasts from my bros and I was devoted to digesting them that evening while hiking with Duke. Man did it turn eventful. 

Typically I don’t even take my phone on hikes, without the wallet. The only reason I ever do is for the camera, I try to avoid carrying that pocket energy on me. Not today though. Extremely engaged in a Rickson Gracie podcast I took off in the mountain with Duke. We hiked for around an hour up to a series of three huge, jagged cliffs exponentially sticking out further than the first.

There’s zero rush to your soul sitting at a place like that. None. You’re just presently enjoying what unfolds before you. I could watch the sun set on those mountain peaks for hours. Being the only human visible above the tree line birds fly close by to check you out. My bond with hawks and eagles has grown beautifully since being here. Often seeing them in times of concentration and encouragement. I’m very grateful for them.

My favorite interaction though has come with hummingbirds. I’ve never had much experience with them at all until now. Since being in Colorado I’ve had at least a dozen tranquil and timeless, even face-to-face encounters with them. Never showing themselves in times of hurry yet always in times of tranquility. Most notably, three of the occasions were on back to back to back consecutive days. Not just at random times, doing the same thing.

If you’re ever near Estes Park, Colorado I’d recommend a late morning hike of Ceran St. Vrain Trailhead. Running alongside and above a river it’s become my favorite daytime retreat that’s not hours into the mountains. Take a couple cold snacks with you and you’re set. For me it’s two protein bars and two peaches. Rub those peaches in ice-cold river water after a 5-mile hike and see for yourself how they hit different.

Like clockwork around 1:00-2:00 the sun shines down directly above you, and that Colorado sun is ever warm and loving when it’s out. I compare it to the Florida sun, minus the humidity. It’s AMAZING. The river at Ceran is fed from a snowcap at the peak of a mountain around 14,000 feet. I’ve learned those snowcaps replenish themselves with each heavy rain. Going to sleep sleeping a dry, rock peppered mountaintop and then waking up to it covered under feet of snow. In August. Nature is so remarkable.

The relentless current that flows from those heavy rains has pushed rocks into formations that fill up swimming pools in the river. The deepest I’ve seen is only three feet, but still plenty cold enough to cool you off and then some. Walking along the river on a hot, sunny day you want nothing more than to jump in.

When I first discovered the trail we went three days in a row, I was obsessed. Each time sitting in a cold plunge in the same pool of the river. A lot of growing takes place when you get comfortable with the uncomfortable. It was right around a minute after I’d been sitting all three times, just as discomfort fades and meditation appears, the hummingbird would come zooming down the river and stop 10 feet in front of my face. The first time, 10 seconds max and it took off. The next day felt close to 30 seconds. And the third was truly majestic. Lost in nothing but the sound of his or her wings buzzing in the air as it would move side to side inches at a time, feet from my face. It stayed with me close to a minute before slowly edging back up river. I’m convinced it was the same hummingbird, and in those moments we were operating at a similar vibration.  

Enough with the tranquility though, you can laugh at my chaos. Back to the tracker story, Duke and I made it to the highest cliff and the last thing I remember doing with my phone was pausing the podcast and recording a video of the jagged horizon cutting through the blood orange sky. Looking back I got caught up in the serenity of the landscape when I paused the podcast and stopped keeping up with my phone all together. I sat there until it was time to hike back and we mosied our way back down in no rush, following the curiosity of Duke’s nose.  

He found his way right back to the remains of a mountain lion cub that was lying at the base of a tree. It was ironic we hiked past it on this day. Only once before had we went this way on the mountain and I hadn’t had my phone, so it worked out well on this day that I could get a video of it. Just the fur coat was left. I’m assuming it had been there for a while and the sun had dried up everything else. I lifted it up with my stick to smell it and it reeked of a similar smell to cat piss. 

There was also a fully eaten deer or elk leg not far from it. (Duke found these cool remains not me). Once we stumbled upon this I knew we were getting close to camp. We were staying in a valley and it was a steep slope for comings and goings. Not wanting to hike back up to get good firewood I decided to gather it all on the way down. I put my knife along with the book I’d brought in the pocket of my hoody. Didn’t notice if my phone was or wasn’t there with it. Silly goose.

When we got back I started a fire and made protein pancakes and bacon for dinner (not what’s pictured but close. Big break-fast guy!) Yum. It was just as I was getting ready to call it a night that I realized holy shit, I don’t have my phone.  I did that whole frantic clean and search under everything you own spree we’ve all done, nope. It wasn’t there. As someone who preaches staying calm, it took everything for me not to freak out. Not only is that my phone, it’s my wallet too. There’s no calling anyone for help. There’s no paying anyone for help. I’m in the middle of the forest. This is really gonna blow.

“It had to have fallen out when I picked up wood.” I’m telling myself. There’s nowhere else it would’ve fallen out of my hoody. I grabbed my flashlight and quickly made my way up to the trees I was gathering wood under. Uh wait, it’s dark now and all these trees look the same. There was no way of differentiating once the sun had gone down.

You can take the same hike at sunrise, midday and sunset and it’ll look like a completely different hike the first couple times you do. Despite wanting to feel stress and anxiety I just had to let it go and know the search was on once the sun came up. There’s no sense stressing things out of your control. Enjoy where you’re at.

I started the fire again and relaxed. I’d completely let it go, they’re just materials that can be replaced. If it happens I’ll figure it out and learn from it. I’d made humor of my pain once more. It’s not the end of the world. That said the sunrise couldn’t come soon enough. I was trying to figure out how I could program Duke overnight into being a police dog directly locating my phone and sitting by it like a good boy. Not happening. He still a good boy doe.

I’d planned on zig-zagging across the closest thing to our previous path I could emulate all the way to that highest cliff, and do the same thing back down if I had to. Repeat it until I find my phone, it has to be out there somewhere. Preparing myself for what could take hours, I zoned in and started as mindful of a walk as I’ve ever been on. I can’t lie though, doubt and worry crept their way further into my mind with each step.

I made it all the way up to the last peak without finding it. When I got to those final steps I was frantically thinking it’s got to be here or I’m screwed. I should have found it on the way up here. I had to kneel into a crouch walk rubbing the rock cliff wall on one side and the prickly pines from a tree on the other to make those last steps onto Simba’s cliff. As I crouched and tried to be limber, there it was. Lying under the tree’s bottom arm of pines, nearly blocked out by their lush green bedding was my black phone case. Face down, a third of my blue credit card looking back at me. I’d never been so excited to see it in my life.

As we carelessly enjoyed the hike back I couldn’t help but feel relation to the book I’ve been reading. Some call it silly, I call it universal guidance; books pick you, you don’t pick the book. Life’s lessons only come to us when we’re ready to learn from them. Over the past two years majority of the books I’ve read have come through organic conversation discussing passions and goals. The ‘right’ book for what you’re searching for will emerge if you’re open to it. I first found the little red library boxes you see pictured in Florida. I thought they were so sick. Usually seen at parks, they’re a public well of information.

It’s been awesome, here in Colorado I’ve even seen one at the end of a driveway on a forest access road cut deep in the mountain. For the people out that way, that’s convenience! I love it. It was the box at the dog park here in Estes that held a gem in store for me though. Just like any other book that calls to you I felt it amongst the others on first reach. My hand grabbed the novel Buffalo Palace by Terry C. Johnston. Knowing it related to traveling the Buffalo country I’m passing thru, it was highly appropriate. Though I would have never guessed the story’s logistics would relate so closely to my own.

It takes place in the 1820’s telling the story of a beaver trapper named Titus Bass. This book is one of many in a series of Titus Bass stories that I plan to continue. Ironic enough Titus grew up in Boone County Kentucky, an hour from where I grew up. Titus was on a westward mission to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and onward to Yellowstone. The exact journey Duke and I are on. Titus had an obsession with Buffalo once he first laid eyes on them. And I was named Cody, after the concept of two historic Cowboys; Wild Bill Cody and Buffalo Bill Cody. I’m a modern day Titus Bass. Appropriately, I’m about to finish the story of Titus’s journey as I embark on the same path he took some 200 years ago. There’s such beauty to be discovered in life’s poetry.

Learn from my mistake, don’t take your wallet with you on hikes! J Though it’s like I’ve tried to point out everything happens for a reason. Lately I’d been dabbling with the idea of getting more into photos and filmography on this journey. Since this eventful day I’ve added a toy that prevents the need for a phone to take photos on hikes… Love you all!

Email | Instagram @wildcodylife | Youtube, stay tuned

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