Viktor E. Frankl, the Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist, stated in Man’s Search for Meaning:
“What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather a striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task. What he needs is not a discharge of tension at any cost but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.”
Modern American society is based largely around the premise of retirement and the concept that if you work for your entire life, save up enough money, you can “retire” to a stress free lifestyle. You FINALLY get to choose how you spend your time. The irony is that once most achieve this, they find themselves in a dissatisfied state oftentimes reflecting and reminiscing on the hard times and struggles they endured throughout the course of their life.
Viktor E. Frankl argues many valuable points in his literary works, but one particular concept that hit home with me argued that a person’s achievement of meaning and fulfillment in life oftentimes is the bi-product of some form of suffering. Many readers can probably relate to this notion - whether realized or unrealized. Hunting, gardening, hiking, rock-climbing, etc. - all include their own forms of “suffering” at times. To summarize this for those who may not fully understand what I mean, try explaining to your distant urban-dwelling relatives how packing 80 lbs of mule deer meat six miles across the mountains after 8 continuous hours of butchering is FUN.
The truth is it may or may not be fun. Some may agree that in that particular moment you’d be lying to yourself if you said it was fun. For instance, when you’re actively trying to summon the strength to crest just one more peak while in a physical and mental state of exhaustion - racing to get meat back to the truck before it spoils...
However, for those of us that do enjoy this type of experience, it's fulfilling. It has meaning. The end product of a successful hunt or garden is remembered with every meal at which that product is featured. It serves a very distinct purpose - and therefore you serve a distinct purpose - as does the adventure itself. Suffering can be an essential component of fulfillment.
Building a Slice of Heaven
This year I was fortunate enough to be a member of an amazing experience and journey in the backcountry. This was one that certainly came with its own set of unique challenges and hardships, but was monumental for laying some building blocks of a dream that has since become a reality.
My friend Clark makes me look like a girl scout when it comes to being an adventurous. Just when I thought I did something cool, I talk to Clark and realize I’m not even on the same playing field. He has a wild hair to say the least, so when we get the chance to catch up on the phone during one of the very limited times he actually has cell reception, I know I’m about to hear an exciting story of some kind.
A few years back he called me to talk about his interest in buying a piece of property in Montana and what my thoughts were on building a cabin. Well, this year that dream became a reality for the both of us.
Our goal was simple: build a strong cabin capable of handling brutal Montana weather and suitable for facilitating many backcountry adventures for years to come.
A handful of his good friends and his uncle gathered on a mountain side where we made camp for a week long “vacation.” This so called “vacation” consisted of running materials up a mountain and five days of dawn to dusk arduous manual labor to erect some form of a Montana-worthy structure that resembled a cabin (I’m exaggerating - as it was designed very well thanks to Clark’s Uncle).
The construction project wasn’t what most folks would deem a suitable “vacation.” It was 30 degrees at night (not unbearably cold, but not exactly a warm summer night either), very limited / rationed food for five hungry guys, and dawn to dusk hard work - stretching every minute to try and finish the cabin on time. The last night consisted of working well into the night to seal the cabin - followed by a four-hour trek to the airport, an hour of sleep, and catching a 6am flight back home with work the next day.
If a cabin built on a couple dozen acres of private ground at 8500’ above sea level overlooking a gorgeous mountain range surrounded by endless public hunting isn’t paradise to an outdoorsman, then I don’t know what is. However, the most valuable part of the cabin isn’t the end-product at all. It’s the realization that your life is what you make of it. Whatever you think your boundaries are in life, they can be pushed. We all have dreams that we think about, talk about, read about - but the little voice in the back of your mind tells you that it’ll probably never happen. And if that’s the case, it surely won’t.
Isaac Newton stated that “An object at rest stays at rest, and an object in motion stays in motion.” The first step is action. If your willing to work hard, and even suffer a little, you may be surprised what you can achieve. Trust me, I’ve seen it in person.
Clark dreamt it, and we built it. I’m looking forward to many future adventures, storytelling around the fire, and processing meat to bring home to the chest freezer out of this base camp.
With that, I am going to leave you with TEN TIPS for building yourself a fine, backcountry cabin - as stated by Clark himself - as he sarcastically bragged on his accomplishment while drinking a cold beer on his new front porch overlooking the mountains:
1) “Get yourself a Chevy Silverado”
2) Your best friends are your handiest friends.
3) Don’t show up to a cabin building trip without enough “caulk.”
4) Always plan on tripling your budget
5) “I know you think you’ve camped…. But no one wants to eat freeze dry food for 6 days straight after working all day. Buy yourself some real G** d*** food.
6) Don’t turn your camp into a bear bait station… (Yes, we may have had a slight bear incident one night)
7) Bring an extra blanket.
8) Buy yourself a good pair of knee pads.
9) “I forget where I was at with these tips.”
10) To be continued…