20 Years of Too Much Fun

I used to joke, “I have the greatest job in the world, but it does have a dark side.”  Then I would explain, “I’ve also been bitten, scratched and pooped on by one of every creature at your local zoo.”  I was only half kidding, because there is a price the body pays for having too much fun.

While recovering from my third knee surgery I was thinking about some of the fun I’ve had in doing a job my wife describes as, “summer camp for adults.”  This year I celebrate twenty years of working at National Geographic, or twenty years of getting paid to go to summer camp as Betty calls it.  It has been filled with multiple adventures of a lifetime, and how many of those should one person be allowed to have in one lifetime?  Clearly I’ve enjoyed more than my share.

I was also reflecting on some of the costs of that fun.  In addition to the three knee surgeries, I’ve had rotator cuff surgery on both shoulders, a foot surgery, a dislocated elbow, fractured pelvis, scapula, great toe, and fractured ribs twice, a lower back injury, a few stiches on occasion, numerous bites, scrapes, and cuts, as well as a variety of infections.

No wonder my orthopedist, David Johnson, calls me his annuity.  He really is a good doctor and he’s worked miracles with this beat up old body.  He also has a good sense of humor and reviews some of my MRI’s and surgery films for a little musical history of a few of my adventures in the field that have led to adventures in hospitals and recovery rooms.

The music is a blues song, appropriately titled, “Hurts Me Too.”  I previously posted a video I shot showing my friends Bill Maxwell, Hadley Hockensmith, Phil Driscoll, Michiko Hill, and Pee Wee Hill recording this song, but now I’ve added video showing highlights of several of the adventures which ended up hurting me too.

Taking the Subway

I’m going to visit some friends this weekend that I haven’t seen since we were all together in Utah almost two years ago.  Hopefully I won’t have a near death experience this weekend like I did during that trip to Utah.  Back then we met up just outside Zion National Park for three days of canyoneering.  For those who don’t know, canyoneering is a sport where you navigate your way through a series of canyons in a wilderness area by any means possible, climbing, boulder scrambling, rappeling, swimming, and hiking.

The backcountry around Utah is the perfect place to participate in this activity, with all its dramatic sandstone formations.  I’ve done this before so I wasn’t expecting any problems, but on one rappel for some reason that I still don’t understand, I lost control on the rope and was dropping way too fast.  Trying to do the impossible, that is trying to grip the rope tight enought to stop my fall, I succeeded only in burning the skin off my fingers.  I was headed for a premature rendezvous with the ground and a multitude of broken bones when someone realized I wasn’t just showing off and grabbed the end of the rope, pulled hard and stopped my descent.

I taped my hands to cover the missing skin and continued on for another day and a half finishing up in an especially beautiful spot called, “The Subway.”  Since I lived to tell the tale, I can now say the experience and scenery were worth the price of a little missing skin.  I’m just hoping this weekend I can have some fun and keep all my skin