It's the third week of January and that means I've got a plane to catch.
The Salt Palace, Salt Lake City's charmless convention center, as it does twice each year, is again playing host to the outdoor industry as its manufacturers tout the latest and greatest assortment of the latest and greatest in backpacking, climbing, skiing, paddling, running and general outdoor adventuring gear to the retailers who will decide whether the consumer gets in on the action by placing orders to stock shelves six months from now.
There'll be plenty of cool stuff to see, that's for sure. Better be since my livelihood as a head buyer/merchandiser for an outdoor retailer depends on it. And so I'll have yet another chance to hear the practiced spiels and give my eyes the chance to confirm or refute the validity of those spiels.
Make no mistake about it, I dig gear. I'm genuinely interested by what "they've" thunk up next and often do believe that some brand new or at least better-than-what-came-before doodad just might make your next outing that much better than the one before.
Funny then that some of my favorite moments at OR (the industry nickname for these Outdoor Retailer trade shows) are the hours spent running in the nearby Wasatch each morning before the show, hours spent far away from the bright lights of the show floor and the rah-rah-rah of those selling and those buying (or not) what's being sold.
While running with friends this past weekend, I grinned at the telling of a whispered-down-the-lane story of someone running Western States several years ago in fresh (at the time) gear only to be passed by an old timer in jeans shorts and a recycled water jug tied to his wrist. Romanticized and exaggerated? Maybe, maybe not. True or not, it's still a great reminder of how we're capable of making even the simplest of acts overly complicated.
There's plenty of stuff you COULD take running. Plenty. Or you could leave that stuff behind.
Just being out and running on a cold, beautiful January morning with a couple of like-minded bodies (like-bodied minds?) was fantastic. Who was wearing what didn't matter because...we'll, because it doesn't. I'd have parted ways with my fancy schmancy running shoes and the full-of-information reading on my GPS long before giving up the shared movement, the conversation, the time spent together on the trail.
Nothing complicated about that.
Driving home and watching the sky complete its transition from starlight to daylight, I was reminded of a passage from Walt Whitman that I couldn't fully recite on the spot but that I was quick to track down as soon as I got home:
“When I heard the learn’d astronomer;
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them;
When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the
How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;
Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.”
As gear goes, I've got a soft spot for the "proofs, the figures...the charts and diagrams" but not as soft a spot as I do for wandering off by myself and drinking in that moist night air.
Looking forward to enjoying a little of each over the next couple of days.