This week, we are excited to share a reflection from one of our 2018 trip leaders, Reed Rombough. Reed is a world-traveler with a background in climbing. Since January of 2013, Reed has been living on the road and traveling all over the United States, Canada, and countries in Asia, Central America, and South America in pursuit of climbing and alpinism. He has climbed at over 100 climbing destinations throughout the world, (over 80 in the US). During all of his travels, Reed likes to pick a single moment from different parts of the trip and write it in prose, in order to spend time remembering the more vivid details and thoughts from the experience.
This summer, Reed led our Norway: Footsteps of Giants program, and as a part of the trip’s Poet’s Campfire (an RLT tradition where leaders and students share and reflect on the last night of the trip), Reed picked four different moments from the trip and shared his writing from each moment with the group. Keep scrolling to read what Reed’s inner monologue as he led the group kayaking, rafting, biking, and hiking across Norway, and to catch a glimpse of the magical land of the midnight sun.
The small village across the fjord holds my attention. I’ve been a captive of its view for most of the day. My camera now full of the exact same photo but yet I’m still fixated in awe. My mind transports itself to the banks below the village. My imagination leads me through a time when Vikings reigned. I can see their wooden ships navigate the green and blue world of the fjords. From the village I watch the ships change with history, moving forward in time until a road winds its way through the middle of town. Boats grow motors and turn to cruise ships until I’m once again in the present, listening to the murmur of conversation amongst the group. The twisting and reaching trunks of the beautiful shade tree sprawl above me. My bare feet press into the cool grass as I stand up and sit on the old wooden plank nestled in the arc of the brown, braided rope. I back up the hill, my eyes craned to the fjord a thousand feet below and with ease I pick up my feet. Instantly my ears are filled with the whoosh of speed and my body arcs upward until the entire length of the fjord comes into view. Without pause, a sweeping smile spreads across my face full of childlike joy and my laugh floats away on the breeze.
I swing to and fro until I’m nearly stopped. I encourage Davis to take a turn and he smiles with a sheepish nod and says “yeah, yeah okay.” I watch him perform the same process, stepping slowly backwards up the dusty hill, worn through by the hundreds of people on this swing before us. He looks at me with a smile and then pulls his feet off the ground, launching into space. It looks like he could let go and land in the fjord as he swings high over the hillside. The cool breeze carries his laugh across the meadow, over the grass roofs of the cottage and out over the Sunnmøre Alps until it drifts high over the tiny village. I fall back into my mind and wonder, how many laughs have drifted on that very same breeze in the last few centuries? How many more laughs will that exact same view contribute to the world? I’m not sure of the answer, but right now, all eight of us enjoy the bliss, and this moment now is all that matters. I smile with contentment as Ellie lifts her feet and tosses another laugh to join the ages.
Eric guides the boat forward with ease. I can hear Catherine and Ellie’s nervous laughter as we approach the small wave. The right front of the raft slips into the wave and sucks Catherine’s side of the raft in. We’re surfing the standing wave now and she looks over her shoulder at me, her bright smile wide and her cheek bones rising high with laughter. Fitz turns to look at me, his characteristic wide-mouthed laugh and bright eyes yield nothing but excitement. Over the rush of the water, I can hear Ellie’s joyful yips as the boat jumps and turns in the churning water.
I can remember these very same moments from my own childhood. My similar excitement burns even now and I know these kids will remember this forever. However small this moment, however small this wave, it will imprint in their memory with more permanence than any bad day at school, than any movie, any tv show, any video game or any YouTube video. This memory, this day, will always hold a weight. Our boat eases out past Nat’s boat and I watch their crew move forward. Liam looks back at me, his signature thumbs up under his broad grin and Izzie’s cheeky smile, evidence of the same excitement, her shoulders back and her focus forward with the confidence she exudes. I watch their boat bounce and jolt in the whitewater and hear the same excitement.
Later, as we haul the boats out of the river and to the bus, I feel I’ve been part of something. Part of something bigger than all the pop culture references I still don’t understand. I still have no clue how to do any of their dances, or why a meme with the letter E is funny, but I’ll always understand that burning excitement of the Sjoa river. That day, I’ll always have with them.
The sound of water is everywhere. From the most quaint of babbles to the roaring sound of whitewater crashing on the rocks. White ribbons like lace cascading over dark rock framed in with the mottled green of lichen. All in harmony with the sharp blue of the cloudless sky contrasting with the massive glacial remnants of an age long gone. A once frozen landscape trying its best to find breath again. The pitter patter of our footsteps breaks the trail in just a little more as we descend the pass from Liervassbu.
The group had been so quiet yesterday but with the aches and pains mere routine already, conversation flows. I walk with a smirk, partially focused on the precarious rocks we’re hopping across, partially enjoying the glisten of endless sparkles like flash photography on the lake, and partially tuned into Davis and Liam’s now ten-minute conversation about food. Liam broke down his entire palette for sushi while Davis leafed through the fine details of his favorite family lasagna recipe. Ahead, the group talks about their futures and desires. I think long and hard about what 15-year-old me would’ve wanted for present me. I snap back to the present and I smile, I think it would look exactly like this. I turn my focus back to the trail.
I can feel the muscles in my calves compress and elongate as the balls of my feet tread nimbly over the sharp uneven rockscape below. I think to myself, “how lucky am I to move through the world in this incredible example of biology and evolution? How lucky am I to exist within a conscious possessing the awareness of my current and ever-present contentment? How lucky am I to enjoy the spectrum of the rainbow that so vibrantly colors this world around me? How lucky am I to be here, now?”
The clack of a wobbly rock grabs my attention once again and the group is now silent. But the sound of water is everywhere.
The hum of my bike tires drones monotonously as they rip across the pavement, the pitch getting higher when I lean into the turns. I hear only two other sounds, the sound of the wind whipping across my ears, and just barely above that, I can hear the giggles and yells of excitement from the three behind me. I glance back and catch Liam with his mouth wide open in a look of pure joy.
The road makes a sharp left and the pavement sound turns to hollow sounds as my bike roars across an old wooden bridge. The road turns again and parallels the river below. The water here looks almost tropical in clarity and the light is reflecting off the dark and white rocks on the bottom, creating a mosaic of turquoise and black. A jet of water lurches over a cliff edge high above the river. Its white veil of mist is lit golden by the sunshine as it falls deep into the valley. The mist wisps in the wind in golden swirls, creating a beautiful contrast with the bright green mountainside behind.
For 10 downhill miles, I transition back and forth from focus on the road to wandering eyes on one of the most beautiful valleys I’ve ever seen. I ease over into a small pullout and watch as one by one each kid pulls up with an identical look of bewildered euphoria. The exclamations are merely that, exclamations and nothing else. Idyllic excitement has filled the group’s spirit more than I could’ve ever imagined. We roll onto the boardwalk of the fjords after a 4,000 foot descent by bike and I see tears in Catherine’s eyes. “This is the best day of my life,” she says with her notorious toothy smile. Quickly, everyone agrees and I’m rushed with emotions. To imagine that I could be here with these incredible kids during such a monumental moment in their lives, was worth more than I could’ve ever imagined. I’d pay over and over to see that look on their faces again. That very moment was the exact reason I didn’t know I was coming here for. With a tear in my own eyes, I rode away to “go look for Natalie” and relished the fact that I had just enjoyed the most incredible human interaction of my life. I can’t thank these kids enough for allowing me to experience this with them.
Discover an adventure worth writing about! View our 2019 programs.