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  • Writer's pictureChris Toepker

Let's have adventures!

It always feels good to look the world in the eye, think about getting out there, taking it on, and venturing forth. It’s a mood I often indulge. Cultivate, even. On one of my recent adventures, I got to thinking about it, and ultimately talked with kindred spirit and author of “Days of Simple Joy,” and "Snoqualmie Strange," James Szubski.

What's a landslide between friends?!

James is a long time friend, and (truth be told) is the Ranger often referred to in my writing. That’s because of his well-developed skill set, started in the Army, and recognized even today by King County Search and Rescue. Seriously, he’s not got “ranger” in his title, but there is no escaping he’s a woodsman of the first order. No wonder I’d reach out to him to discuss adventures.

In considering the topic, we have compared notes many times. Indeed, his observation while hiking that “as we get older, adventure approaches impossibility” stirred weeks of debate on our Squatchbound outings. His position is that, as Webster notes, adventure is “undertaking, usually involving danger and unknown risks” (emphasis added). The older we get, the more prepared we are, able to foresee risks and prepare for them, which both decreases the danger and removes half of the definition. I have to say, it’s a persuasive argument.

My own position is influenced by the fantasy of adventure. As a youngster, my heroes included Indiana Jones, Bilbo Baggins, Jim Hawkins, Toby Tyler, and the Boy Who Went to The North Wind. As an adult, I’ve added quite a few too, such as Giovanni Belzoni, Buckaroo Banzai, James West, Fred C. Dobbs, Xiang Yu (項羽), Lam Chun Fai (林鎮輝), and, as a general rule, paladins.

About half of them have backing, resources and a surrounding ecosystem. I've always envied that and wondered how to arrange such a thing for my own adventures. I mean, whether born to it, like a comic book hero, or stumbled into political factions' fighting in the Great Game, having resources to call on gives you a steady stage on which your own talents can play out. Without it, you're struggling. Maslow really was on to something!

Speaking of struggle, about half of those heroes are poor, just looking to get what is Right from The World, while keeping their own morals intact. They are scrappy, and willing to dig in to "make it happen." The poorer ones also seem to have a stronger sense of fairness and justice, and this often tinges them with a sense of irony or even despair, battling odds that far outweigh them. What does that say about me, I wonder?!

Still all of my heroes share quite a few common features, and I do my best to follow that guidance. They are full of wit, and never shirk some hard work,

whether book work or backbreaking. They are prepared, cautious even. They calculate the risks and measure themselves and the adventure against them. They put their training and knowledge to creative use, delivering results not just themselves, but to others.

For my real-life, Breaking Impossible adventures, “getting out there” fits the general bill.

Most of my treks are a sort of “internal” adventure, one where the dangers are driven by your own self. There are no outside rules or standards, you’re pushing to simply “do better or more than last time.” This forces you to face your own shortcomings, like a lack of gumption, or energy or knowledge or strength. As a result, when an adventure of this sort is dissatisfying, it often leads to another – one where gumption, energy, strength or knowledge are improved. Naturally, you’re pushing the boundaries between safety and danger, and, I’m sad to report, as time goes by, the sense of adventure does decrease. Maybe James is right?!

While they do not require a great deal of backing, it also means that they are necessarily limited. I mean, I make adventures for others as my day job in games, and so, my time out on treks is bounded by that vocation!

Of course, I often feel as if I want something larger. To throw off the limits! Something truly unknown, with some real danger. Is it crazy to think about signing up to colonize Mars? Or maybe volunteering with the anti-poaching rangers in Virunga National Park? Or to try to walk home, going from Florida to Seattle? Certainly, Webster would agree that they are all adventures, or “an exciting or remarkable experience.” Still, they have the air of foolhardiness instead, don’t they?

If we were to simply call every ill-considered move an “adventure,” doesn’t that cheapen the ideal?

In considering with James, a few things came out of our discussion. The best adventures bring something back to your family, your community, your nation, or the world. This fits perfectly with all my heroic dreams. I mean, “That belongs in a museum,” says it all, doesn’t it?

Equally, they improve you along the way. Your knowledge, capabilities, understanding and strength improve. Ideally, your strengths are equally part of a team, and each person is improved, as is the team.

The best adventures push boundaries, but perhaps it doesn’t have to be danger, although one must be ready for that. For example, “adventures in knowledge” is certainly acceptable. Studying in the library, digging up links and uncovering information for new audiences all qualify. Sometimes, to get the best evidence, you may need to get out for confirmation, and when you do, you’ll have to be careful! I mention book learning first because maybe it doesn't come to mind when thinking adventurously. The observation does not discount the usual physical, natural, national and other boundaries when adventure requires applying that bit of shoe leather to the road.

The best adventures help others. Perhaps it is actually helping someone or something. Like rescuing other adventurers, for example.. Other times, perhaps helping takes the form of coaching, mentoring, or teaching. Call it "adventures in learning!" That training, whether in the Ways of Adventure and exploration, or simply having the quest be “bringing things back to the world,” it all counts as helping others. Venturing forth simply for one’s own good smacks of greed and villainy, no matter how dangerous or enterprising.

The best adventures test your own limits, and force you to adjust and overcome through wit and applied skills. When faced with circumstance, whether anticipated or not, you often have to simply press on, relying on your ingenuity, strengths and plain old willpower. You might fail to obtain your objective, but that is still a grand adventure. After all, the Quest for the Holy Grail has (so far) failed!

In the grand scheme of things, the Hong Kong Four Trails Ultra Challenge is a "best adventure." A daunting one! It requires daily commitment and discipline. Seemingly endless “internal” ventures, living at the boundaries of gumption and effort. The biggest risk is also the easiest out: You can always drop; you don’t have to do it.

As for bringing things back and helping improve, certainly we're adhering to the "trails are out there" ethos of the race, bringing back info, photos and directions on using them here and on Twitter. More importantly, it is our hope that in sharing our struggles, indeed over years, that others might be inspired, even if only a few. Our hope is that seeing others doing it, one realizes “Hey, I could do that too.” It’s how we got started and, we hope you’ll join us!

Some shots from "Squatchbound" adventure group!

Chris, James, Dan

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