Graduation Speech from the Cascadia College of Adventure

In discussing the Triple Crown of US through hikes, people often refer to the Appalachian Trail as the place you get your Bachelors (entry level - tough but doable without much previous knowledge), the Pacific Crest Trail as the place you get your Masters (takes some preparation and you could get yourself in trouble/flunk out if you're not smart), and the Continental Divide Trail as the place you get your PhD (even experienced hikers sometimes can't do it).

Because we've never done a proper through hike before, Angel and I owe a huge debt to the Cascadia College of Adventure (CCA), where we've been auditing courses for about three and a half years now.  Before we moved to Seattle, our spirit of adventure mostly manifested as a travel bug, but in the last few years our local community of faculty and students has helped us get to a place where we feel that it will be at least reasonable, if not advised, to jump into something as big as a PCT through hike.

If we hadn't moved to Seattle, with it's massive, approachable outdoor community, and particularly if we hadn't gotten involved in the trail running world, I'm not sure we would've had the guts to take this thing on.  But tenured faculty like Win Van Pelt from the Seattle Running Club, and Glen Mangiantini and Liz Kellogg who've spent as many miles on the trail as anyone, shared a lot of outdoor wisdom with us and helped give us some early introductions and encouragement - helping us get through our first trail races. 

Local hotshot adjunct professors have been particularly inspiring in helping to plot a course for what it looks like for a normal person to live an adventurous life.  Our buddy Seth Wolpin is both an actual UW faculty member and a real-life mountain climbing, globe-trotting adventurer. Deby Kumasaka and George Orozco have pioneered roles as family-centered suburbanites by day and hard core ultra runners by night and weekend.  Julie-of-all-trades Cassata seems to have mastered every outdoor sport on two feet, from through-hiking to ultra running to orienteering.  And fellow former Ohioans Matt and Julie Urbanski, provided us with a template for quitting life and going on a bunch of adventures.

We had a great, if somewhat melodramatic, personal TA in Adam Gaston, who let us tag along on his own exploits and provided us with beta while joining for some of our own.

And in the last couple of years it's been inspiring to see some of our fellow students graduating and taking on their own big adventures: Yitka Winn, who quit life in Seattle to move to CO to work a dream job at Trail Runner Magazine, then quit that dream job to pursue an actual dream of writing freelance.  And our friend Alicia, who was wearing "BEER" socks and metallic shorts the first time we met her, and now has run for the Canadian National 100k Team. 

"Graduation", for us, means having the confidence to create adventures ourselves, which reflect our identity.  Basically, our approach has typically been adventure as a lark - doing big, tough, scary things and having fun with it, rather than taking ourselves too seriously.  We ran across Spain, but we did it slowly, and we ate at just about every cafe along the way.  We ran 100 miles, and Angel finished in a pink unitard.  And we'll hike the PCT dressed like Liberace. 

Just kidding, I think. 


Angel said…
Where are you going to get this outfit?
I eagerly await sparkly pictures from the trail.