(and you shouldn’t either.)
If you grew up with a roof over your head, a safe bed to cuddle up in, and parents who were able to provide you with three meals a day, thank them. Thank them for providing the simplicities of life that most humans don’t have access to.
I grew up at the base of the Ruby Mountains in Spring Creek, Nevada. Most of you when I say Nevada probably think, “Oh right, that state in-between Utah and California.” But to me it means my first home. What I knew for 12 years of my life, consistently. It means the driest state, yup, drier than Arizona and New Mexico. It means where I learned to ride a two-wheel bike in the church parking lot down the street, and that same church, just 12 years later, provided me with endless amounts of toilet paper as I ran in during a rainstorm with a gushing bloody nose this summer-TYPICAL. That last statement might leave you with a few questions, let me answer them for you. First, I only learned to ride a two-wheel bike when I was 7. Weird, right? Second, why was I there this summer? Driving to California to work at my old summer camp, Coppercreek. Duh. And in classic Nevada style, I got a raging bloody nose as I crested over the hills between Elko and Spring Creek. I was crying with nostalgia, and then went to wipe my nose and it was blood. Fantastic, I thought as I drove 55mph down the highway. I had no tissues, no t-shirts close by to use, just my tank top and shorts, and seat belt…and steering wheel…and center console to drip all over. By the time I got to that church parking lot, my car looked like a goddamn murder scene. Which is why I decided to go to a church and not a gas station. Because I felt like I would have gotten less judgment there, right? I’m not religious, so sue me if I’m wrong. I digress.
My point is that growing up at the base of the Ruby Mountains really shaped who I am as a person today. My parents and their friends used to drive up Lamoille canyon until the road was closed, and then pop the sleds off the trailers and go from there. Brad and Sandy even had a little snow cat that they would take up there and park at wherever we dug out our snow bar for the day. My good friend Rio and I would watch as our parents dug out benches and a table, and we would stab our bratwursts with forks; inventors of the “Lollibrat.” I still take credit for that name, but Rio would tell you otherwise. We didn’t just eat food in the middle of the forest, though. My dad would sled us up to the top of Ambrosia, encouraging me to make figure 8’s off his tracks. For those of you who know the line in the Rubies called Terminal Cancer, he’s skied that. He’s a badass. He’s also skied countless lines in the Rubies, he’s told me about them all before but I can’t keep track. We would skin up to the top of ridges, a lot of times with much protesting from me…cardio isn’t my thing, ok? And on the days when Madi really didn’t want to hike, she’d curl up on the snow benches and protect the group food from birds.
In the summers, at least one of our friends would get lucky with a river permit or two, and we’d load up the boats and set out on week long river trips. In my 21 years on this planet, I’ve done too many trips to count but I do know that I’ve been down the Main Salmon in Idaho 13 times. Love is an understatement for that stretch of river. The beaches are perfectly sandy and plentiful, the rapids are mama bear sized, just big enough that rowing them myself gives me butterflies but I still get to hoot and holler through them. When I was 13 we did the Grand Canyon, Rio’s dad was the lucky one who scored that permit. Those two weeks in the canyon changed my whole outlook on what it means to be in nature. There’s a place where water spews out of a big whole in the canyon wall, forming a side canyon called Thunder River. You can drink the water straight from the source. There’s a place where aquamarine water mixes with the often-muddy water of the Colorado, but when we did it, it was oddly clear. This water belongs to the Little Colorado River, and mixes with tons of minerals to get the water so blue. There are fossils, volcanic rocks, sandstone walls, granite walls—the canyon is ever changing. My dad tipped an entire pot of boiling water over on himself, singeing his feet with second-degree burns. Katie and I watched as Gunnar floated past our boat in Granite, realizing that there was no one at the oars. Katie didn’t have long enough legs to leverage herself against the cooler and the drybox while trying to man the oars, so I jumped on them, getting a bloody nose in the process, and managing to get us caught in the never-ending eddy on the right side. Her dad Jeff had to paddle out to us after I had put us on the bank, and even he struggled to row us out of there. I cried during the scout of Lava, “THERE IS NO BUBBLE LINE!” I shouted and continued to cry as we dropped into the first wave. Approching the biggest wave I’ve ever known on a river, the V-wave, our boat was sideways. I glanced back at my dad who was rowing our boat, and he only had one oar in his hand. We’re going to flip and die, I thought, but he last minute grabbed both oars and scissor-ed us to run it backwards, the wave crashing directly down on us. Back into the light of day I remember my mom looking at me and asking if it was possible to sink a raft, as our entire boat was filled with water. I sure hope I get a chance to spend more time in that magical canyon.
Other summer highlights included 6 summers at camp in California, a special place called Coppercreek. Here I got to try so many new things, including improving my riding skills (on a horse). I’m pretty sure Coppercreek was the first place I ever tried rock climbing, too. And a high ropes course. I’ll never forget my first high ropes course, standing on the penguin shuffle, tears streaming down my face as the cables beneath my feet grew closer together with each step I took, the counselor at the other end encouraging me as if I were a champion—when I reached his platform I had never been so happy to be standing on solid ground. If a platform all the way up a tree counts as “ground.”
Through these experiences, and so many more, I guess what I’m trying to say is thank you, Kathy and Roy McKinstry, for raising this child that, while difficult and frustrating a lot of the time, turned out to be a real-live human being that continues to appreciate everything about her life. Thank you for teaching me how to ski pretty much at the same time I learned to walk. I’m so happy Grand Targhee was a part of my childhood; now when I ski there I appreciate it that much more. Thanks for taking me to countless bluegrass festivals, even during my middle school years when I thought it was lame. Thank you for always being supportive of all my decisions, athletic and otherwise, but never pushy. Thank you for being encouraging, but not the parents on the sidelines of my soccer games who think they’re the coach. Thanks Dad for being my soccer coach, even when all the parents in Spring Creek thought you weren’t good enough because you didn’t follow a certain religion. Thanks Mom for being my volleyball coach, even though at the time I kind of hated it. Thanks Dad for spending countless hours in our front yard using those two big trees as goals when I thought I was going to become the best goalie in the world. Thanks Mom for telling me that basketball was a cool sport that I should try out because I was at least tall enough, even though I’m one of the most uncoordinated people I’ve ever met. And thanks for understanding when I quit basketball before freshman year even started. Thanks to both of you for understanding my switch to cross country when the doctor said I needed a break from soccer after my ankle injury, then continuing with track, and then quitting cross country the next year because soccer and skiing were better. Thanks for letting me think I could do the SkiMeister program through the high school, even though I only did one alpine race (on my tele’s) and one nordic race (where I pretty much thought f*ck this the whole time). Thanks for supporting my dreams of going to Zambia. Thanks for trusting me enough to live in France when I was 18, and supporting my World Cup dreams for six winters. Thanks for letting me grow up with dogs and cats, hamsters and hermit crabs. Thanks for letting me dig holes to China in the backyard and eat the wild onions. Thanks for bringing me on horse gathers and letting me hold blocks of gold, making me count grass in hoops and letting me cry when we realized we took all the samples wrong. And lastly, thank you for loving me even though I’m a complete weirdo.