Jeff the Canuck - Living the Dream

Some people are drawn to the outdoor lifestyle with such tremendous fervor that they do everything within their power to mold their life around it. Others while away their time at day jobs, anxiously awaiting the evening or weekend to make mad-dash adventure runs up mountains or down rivers. And still others find a perfect balance of career and outdoor lifestyle-- something which complements their professional side, while still allowing them ample time for wild wanderlust.

Jeff, the Canuck, who I met at the top of Middle Teton, fits into this latter category. He spends his summers campsite to campsite, traveling to remote locations and climbing mountains. The rest of the year he enjoys teaching 4th and 5th graders back in his home town of Calgary, Alberta.

At first look, Jeff fits the outdoor profile. Lean and fit. Two day's worth of stubble. Funked out hair that is part Reverend Jim from Taxi and part Sideshow Bob from the Simpsons. His personality fits the theme, owing to whimsical outbursts of fun and laughter. I offered him an extra cigar at the summit and his eyes lit up like a kid on Christmas morning. Later, while taking some pictures, he could not resist mooning the camera. --Without a doubt, he is one of the more "alive" people I have met in some time.

While climbing down from the summit of Middle Teton with Jeff and his girlfriend Jenn, I had the chance to chat and find out more about his background.

Apparently Jeff didn't seek out teaching, rather it found him while he was busy pursuing outdoor ambitions. Jeff was a student in Thunder Bay Ontario, studying for an Honors Bachelor degree in Outdoor Recreation Parks and Tourism, a degree that leads to Park Ranger jobs, careers in Tourism and gigs as Professional Outdoor Guides. Interested in becoming a guide, he was busy taking extra classes in climbing to build his resume. To further hone his skills, and earn some cash, he decided to teach a few of the classes. As Jeff put it, "Having teach and simplify something makes you think about it more intensely and really tests your own understanding."

It didn't take long for Jeff to realize his passion for teaching and steer his carreer in that direction, while still continuing to enjoy the outdoors. "I realized I could do both things I love." he explained while tacking along the side of a boulder, "I have the summers off to just hit the road and lose my mind, y'know."

With 3+ months of free time, during the peak of mountain climbing season, Jeff and Jenn are on a whirlwind tour this summer. They are busy hitting up western states here in the Lower 48, climbing mountains almost every day and living out the back of a 4x4 Toyota Tacoma.

As we scuttled over an area of scree, our talk turned to the subject of living your dreams without hesitation. It was one of those heavy conversations usually reserved for late night drinking with good friends, not the sort of discussion you expect to have while climbing over loose and jagged rocks. Regardless of the context, on this matter we were in full agreement-- most people wait too late in life to pursue the things they enjoy. While trying to figure a route off a small ledge, I lamented, "When you're young you have health, but no money. If you wait to retire, you have money but the energy of youth is gone and you can't do the crazy things any more."

Jeff enthusiastically agreed, then summed it up best when he said, "You gotta get out while you can live the dream, man. There's no other way!"

And living the dream he is. My last image of Jeff was from far across the expanse of a huge boulder field somewhere below the Grand Teton. He and Jenn had just finished glissading down a snow field, so I waved my arm over my head in an exagerated gesture to get their attention. He returned the salute in dramatic fashion as if to say, "Happy trails fellow warrior!"

I don't know where Jeff and Jenn are in their journey, but I wish them safe and exciting adventures. Have fun and stay safe, you crazy Canadians!

(for a side story on my climb down with Jeff and Jenn, check out the replies to an earlier post entitled: Middle Teton)