As outdoors maven Katie Arnold proves in “The Mother of All Adventures,” sometimes when it comes to friends who are there for you every step of a trail run or hike (or climb up a sheer rock wall), you just can’t narrow it down to one…
“We learned to roll kayaks and cast flies together. We dug dummies out of the snow at avalanche school; watched the full moon set as the sun rose over Utah’s Canyonlands; cranked through steep, dusty single-track in Idaho; paddled desert rivers on the longest day of the year; nursed heartbreak and flirted with surf instructors in Hawaii. When we were ten, we learned to sail in our soggy Tretorns, dragging each other onto the hull like waterlogged mink after the boat capsized. You convinced Steve and me to tag along on your backcountry honeymoon, and I talked you into going fly-fishing with me a week before Pippa was born. (In retrospect, one of my dumber ideas.) We’ve chased after-work mountain bike rides with margaritas, raced all night long in Moab, and spent entire long days swimming in the lake. When I sliced my knee open on the trail and had to fashion a baggy little tourniquet out of my T-shirt, you were the first person I called from the hospital pay phone. I had just moved to Santa Fe and barely knew you. “Uh, I fell while hiking and need a ride home,” I said lamely. “I’m on my way,” you told me, and when you walked into the waiting room, it was like seeing my oldest, dearest friend in the world. “Next time we’ll go together,” you said. And we did. Together, we’ve had plenty of close calls, both real and imagined. Who can forget all the times we were caught out in thunderstorms and nearly electrocuted? (Exaggeration, maybe, but you know how phobic I am.) “Please take care of Gus,” I begged you during one particularly lunatic mission, as we huddled with our bikes on a high ridge, trying to remember how not to get zapped. Do you stand under a tree, or near a tree, or in the open? Do you lie flat or crouch with one leg in the air, to keep the current from forming a circuit? How is it that we still don’t know this? “Of course,” you said magnanimously, even though you’re allergic to dogs. “And you can have my cat.”
KATIE ARNOLD is a freelance writer based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her stories have appeared in Outside, Travel & Leisure, ESPN The Magazine, The New York Times, and Sunset, among other magazines. She has profiled Native-American actor and activist Russell Means, BASE jumper Dean Potter, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, and fashion icon Tom Ford. Her feature about world-champion freestyle kayaker and entrepreneur Eric Jackson, “Alpha Geek,” received honorable mention in Best American Sports Writing 2008. Her travels have taken her to Australia, Iceland, the South Pacific, Europe, and throughout North America. In the field, she’s partial to total-immersion reporting: While on assignment, she once ran a marathon; another time, she accidentally climbed Yosemite’s Half Dome. She’s currently at work on a collection of short stories.
Read the rest of Katie’s letter, and 35 others, in P.S. What I Didn’t Say: Unsent Letters to Our Female Friends, now available on Amazon!