Emily in the mud. Vancouver Island. Click to enlarge.
What an amazing weekend. It was Canada Day weekend here, north of the 49th parallel, and I celebrated with friends by driving 600 km up Vancouver Island, through old growth forests, logging roads, mud puddles, and coastal views. I went as the new guy on the block, signing up for membership with the South Vancouver Island Jeep Club in the parking lot only minutes before leaving. I’ve been playing at overlanding and 4×4 driving for two years now, but with the accident and unexpected detours, I’ve not had the time to learn some of the things I’ve wanted to. This was that chance. It felt like the first day at school, and while much of it was old-hat to me, there were things that scared the crap out of me. Fear, perhaps above all, regardless of what you’re learning, is the biggest barrier to taking the posture of the learner. The acolyte just is what he is because he lacks knowledge, experience – or both – and we fear what we do not know. Our imaginations inflate the “what-ifs” because there is no experience to tell them otherwise. So we move forward in spite of fears, gain experience, and so diminish them – or die trying. Or we don’t. We look up at a rock face that seems impossible to climb up, yet alone drive over, and despite seeing others do it with grace, we panic, we back down, we stay safe but stagnate. Learning is about moving forward.
Not that moving forward is always easy. I had times this weekend when the only way it could happen was to wrap a winch cable around a well-protected tree and pull myself out. And I had times when, having done it, I could use my winch to do the same for others. I’m speaking both literally and metaphorically. Someone asked me recently if the fear diminishes over time, and I think it does. Or it gets displaced. Or, more likely, the fear remains but the strength of your courage grows. If you try and succeed, you gain the courage to try again. If you try, and fail, and dust yourself off, you see that the imagined possibilities aren’t as great as the fear would have you believe, and your courage grows. It is only those who never try, or never pick themselves up, that retreat into the fear and settle for something safe, but less than what they once dreamed of.
There was one point, going up a hill we’d gone up 3 days before, but now much muddier, that my Jeep got hung up, nose way up in the air, with only my buddy Al on the bumper to prevent it from rolling over, ass over tea-kettle*. Another person threw my winch line around a stump, and after about 15 adrenaline-filled minutes I was stable, we had a group hug, and drove the remaining 5 minutes to a breath-taking lookout. Getting there was the best part. After the trip, a couple of us sat around eating Thai food and talking about favourite moments, and a number of those moments centered around things we’d learned; not the incredible vistas or the campsite we found on a sandbar in the middle of a river, but the challenges we overcame to get to those places.
Photographically it was disappointing, I’ll chalk it up as more of a scouting trip than anything. It’ll be a while before I can hike again, so for now these adventures are the best way for me to get into the wild and find the beauty there. I’d hoped to come back with a few great photographs. Instead I came back with great stories. That’s better than staying safe and dry any day.
Click the contact sheet to enlarge it.
I leave for Mongolia tomorrow and will be back around the 16th. I’ll be in touch when I return, but if I can I’ll send a postcard from the road. To all my American friends, Happy July 4th.
*Yes, I could have rolled the Jeep. It would have been a gentle roll, and probably would have done a little damage, but nothing that couldn’t be replaced. I’ll stay as safe as I can out there, I promise, but not so safe that I protect myself from lessons learned and stories lived. When I fell off the wall in Italy, one of my nephews said, “I guess you learned not to climb walls, right Uncle David?” to which I replied, “No, Samuel, I’ve learned to be a little more careful about the walls I climb.” It’s his Dad’s job to patch him up. 🙂
Wooow, so cool! I own Wrangler Rubicon and I’ve been out in forest with it few times but it’s not as enjoyable when you are on your own. I live in Prague (Europe) so I need to drive all the way up to mountains. Do you live in Vancouver Island? I’ve been on a trip to Canada and I went to Vancouver Island as well after I’ve read some reviews and it was definitely an amazing trip. We were rock climbing and hiking in the rain forests but I could only wish to drive my Jeep there. Btw, your photos are great! Especially the one of Emily all muddy with a nose up. Can’t wait for your mongolian post 🙂 take care, Kay
Looks like a great trip. Glad to see a Jeep being put to use that suitable to it’s pedigree.
Hmm I think I know that tree … think its on the way to Holberg?? Used to work Van Island doing inspections for insurance companies and spent many at time rallying my protege 5 down logging roads 🙂 Did you get the storey about the shoes on the tree? I always wondered what it was about.
Oh wow! Sorry Emily I meant you …. so many women in Davids life to keep track of I get messed up sometimes lol
Pingback: Vancouver Island « National-Express2011
Used to love 4-wheeling, though I am in an area where I can’t really do much anymore. Since group hugs have apparently now become a part of off-roading, I feel lucky that I can’t do it now.
Pingback: Things You’ll Find Interesting July 3, 2012 | Chuq Von Rospach, Photographer and Author
Nicely done, Nate. Hadn’t even thought of that. 🙂
Pretty funny to see a man driving his bed through a mud puddle!?@ Now I go to read the rest-
Whoops, big mistake Al. Hope David keeps his word on keeping silent. 😉
You’re welcome for the complement. I took a look at your site, great images, love the portraits.
Al – Jessie’s the Land Rover. That was Emily. I won’t tell her you made that mistake. 🙂
Thanks for the complement Tom that’s me in the green shirt haha. It was a great trip with David and I most of all enjoyed perching on his bumper to keep Jessy from rolling over as we winched him up the hill. If anyone else wants to come over and try their hand at the same hill just let me know I’d be happy to facilitate 🙂
Wow! Quite an adventure, and as for great images, I love the dude with the green shirt and wine glass, a great “casual” portrait!
Justin – Yes, I do. I don’t know what it is, but I like it. I use Camera+, hit Clarity, then Magic Hour at 50%. Yeah, it’s a little HDR-ish but they’re snapshots and I’m OK with that. Sorry you never got to go for a ride, Emily’s fussy about her passengers 😛
Graham, she’ll get a bath, I promise. Or a paint job. 🙂
Oh, and let me say, I loved the photos. 🙂
Poor Emily, leaving that muck on her can be tough for the complexion. A mud bath can be fine on a lady’s skin, but those earthly salts and chemicals can develop cracks and fine lines that show up with a little age. Take care of her needs or her finish may tarnish prematurely. She may not forgive you.
Anyone else notice how “HDR” those photos look? Love your iPhone tonemapping much?
I’m kind of sad I never got to go for a ride when Emily was in town…
DaveB, yeah, it was a success. Absolutely. Just not in the way I expected or hoped. Traveling in groups is a tough way to make photographs, but I’ll head back there on my own, with a friend, and see what happens with a little more time to look through the lens. As for Emily, she’ll have to wait until I am back from Mongolia to get her bath. But she sure needs it. Hope you’re well.
…and photographically speaking… I think that lead off shot tells a very long and exhilarating story, full of energy, surprises and excitement…. even if it is only 1 image and I would guess even from the contact sheet there are a few more too… it is a success???
I sure hope you rewarded Emily with a spiffy soapy bath and rub down.. and gave her credit for holding it all together for you too… after watching a movie like Cars you learn to know Jeeps are people too…
That looks like so much fun!
Love this post David, both the literal story and also, especially, the metaphoric implications. 🙂
Naddam in Mongolia? Staying in the capital or going to one of the villages or both? We went two years ago and had a great time. Be sure to carry lots of extra water on trips outside the capital – not to drink but to fill the radiators.
Have a great time.
Such a great lead off image that leaves so much to the imagination.