First Big Adventure of 2020

I know. I dropped off the edge of the blog planet. I was completely unprepared for the letdown of the journey’s end, combined with another major depressive episode, and it almost ended me. So I surrendered. I let go and got help.

In the past six months I’ve learned much about myself. I have regained compassion, empathy, forgiveness, and equanimity. It feels good – good enough to find out if this stability I feel will continue as I experience new adventures. I’m armed with the knowledge that the feelings that come with the ending of great adventures are natural and that I have developed skills helpful in living through them.

The first spin I am taking these new coping skills out on is an 80-hour course to recertify my Wilderness First Responder license. The license lasts for three years and mine expires next month. When I first started thinking of signing up for the recert, I thought “it would be cool to do the course somewhere I haven’t been before. I could see new wildlife, explore new worlds, seek out new life, new civ… errr…” You get the idea.

A few autumns ago, I had the opportunity to drive through the North Cascades. It was a short car trip, but I’d gotten enough of a taste that I knew I would be back. I was stoked to find a WFR course offered at a non-profit learning center right inside the national park, called the North Cascades Institute. The course is a hybrid, with the first 40 hours done at home, online, at your own pace. The second 40 hours are at the learning center in the national park next to Diablo Lake and towering white-capped mountains.

Yesterday, I left Gaston and Uncle Sidney at the farm and drove the six hours to the park. Today was the first day of class. My anxiety level compared to the past two courses: maybe 20%, maybe even less. I even had the time for a short 40-minute run after class before it got totally dark. Well, the last 10 minutes were in the dark, but I didn’t really mind.

What I’m feeling now is gratitude. I’m thankful for the humans who have continued to love, support, and help me navigate through the thick of it, and thankful I kept going even though I wanted nothing more than to stop.

If tonight were six months ago, I would have been anxiously dreading and then the next day dutifully going through the motions of assessing medical emergencies, practicing splints, CPR, reducing dislocated extremities, cleaning and dressing wounds, and so on. I’m grateful that tonight is now. I’m into this. I’m looking forward to all of that now. It holds my interest. The next four days I get to hone my medical skills and prepare myself to be able to help people, and at the same time be outside, in the forest, in the mountains, by the lake, with the wildlife. Yes, I’ve got this.

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Written by

kyleenaustin

I am passionate about outdoor exploration. In the recent years I have discovered how much more I can experience from a kayak. I am a professional musician and own a kayaking company. I have also had the honor of starting up three artisan dairies, growing food for people locally.

25 thoughts on “First Big Adventure of 2020

  1. So happy to hear from you and your renewed adventures!
    I’m grateful you got through the “let down”!!!
    Can’t wait to paddle with you soon on the Columbia…
    Weldon got a new hip, so he is pretty “hip hip hurray” right now!
    Good luck on your recertification.
    Big hug
    Manu’

  2. You DO have this. Coupled with gratitude and appreciation for how far you’ve come in six months, you’re going to rock this new adventure. Enjoy it to the max, Kyleen. I’ll look forward to hearing all about it.
    With great love and respect for you, friend…..Con

  3. Kyleen, I love you. I wasn’t aware of the dark time you experienced. So glad you found some new goals and are feeling better, my dear travel partner. Aunt Ruthie or whatever you call me.

  4. I hate that aspect (the let down after completion) of adventures or of accomplishing any big goal, really. And I know you’d had your paddle as a goal for many years.

    When our son completed the Appalachian Trail he struggled but he was in the middle of getting his Engineering degree and managed to reengage.

    And I know John and I always feel a big let down after our trips.

    I’m surprised there isn’t more literature about the phenomenon, actually.

    On another note, my first husband and college sweetheart is the founder and director of the North Cascades Institute. He and I were backcountry rangers together in the North Cascades in the late 1970s, early 1980s although we’d gotten together earlier than that. Ending that marriage almost did me in, but like you I survived.

    Three cheers to making it through!

    1. Hi Susana, I was talking with some staff and the were talking about the two guys who started the institute 30 years ago. What a small world. We are all connected in a number of ways!

  5. Fabulous. I have a long association with the North Cascades Institute. Great folks, and Jackie did a wilderness adventure with them 10 years ago. Hope you have a great time.

  6. You found yourself a fabulous spot for recert. I have not yet shared with you that as you made your journey this past summer, my husband had a journey of his own, chemo, then radiation, for pancreatic cancer. Your daily posts were one of the few things he and I and our adult kids could look forward to every day. Your leaky Babs was our leaky Babs; your swells were ours as well; your pouring rain mornings were our pouring rain mornings. Paul is doing great for now. Isn’t today magnificent!

  7. You’ve totally got this Kyleen! I am so grateful you decided to stay with us! Writing about our mental health is not easy, but it can be so healing and helpful to others. Please, never give up. I love you friend.

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