bounding up the trail
story: john holdmeier

I'm literally crawling up the trail... it's straight up. My legs... completely cramped. It's miserable, and I'm holding up the group. The next thing I see, and the last thing I remember (before passing out in an exaustion-induced-tent-coma), is a twelve year old bounding up the trail ahead of me and out of sight. Not even the slightest indication of strained breath or physical fatigue.

I swear I took every step to cut weight... every. single. step. I was so proud coming into it with the lightest pack weight of the group. Base weight at a measly 8 lbs, my total pack weight with food and water hovering right around the 17lb mark. That's what they expected though... the rest of the group. They know me all too well. "Of course" I was going to show up with the newest, lightest gear... I work for an outdoor brand. The real kicker about this group though is that they made me this way. Family tends to have that effect on people.

an outdoor family
You see, I come from an outdoor family. My mom and dad had us camping, floating, and backpacking since birth. When I was younger, my sister worked at the local gear shop and got everyone hooked up with the latest and greatest gear (some of which, like my dad's mid 90's Dana Design pack, is still on this trip today). I started down my career path heavily influenced by my family and the opportunities I had to get outside and do cool things. I feel incredibly grateful for this.

That’s what makes this trip so special. The twelve-year-old bounding up the trail where we left off…that’s my nephew Jack… and this is his first “legit” backpacking trip out west. On the trail this trip, we have three generations exploring together. The significance and importance of showing Jack these places, with his grandpa (my dad), my sister, and my brother-in-law along for the journey, is not lost on any of us. Not even Jack…who seems to be in his element, like we all expected he would.

I wake up to start another day on the trail and am greeted by the most moving scene: my dad (Jack’s grandpa), Jack and my sister starting the breakfast ritual. I keep having these “pinch me” moments in my life and in my career. Without a doubt, this is one of them. I feel so lucky to call this my job, my life, and my family. Testing gear for work, with my nephew, in the middle of high-alpine national forest land… I mean, it honestly doesn’t get any better than this.

made this way
After four nights in the wilderness we’re ready to head back to town. The train that dropped us off is back to pick us up and at the other end of the line promises Durango’s best hamburger bliss (the hiker hunger is all too real). I wouldn’t trade this trip for anything… but all of us are ready for some time apart. I know for a fact the fam is sick of me taking pictures and telling them about our new products and gear. Luckily, they only have a few more hours of train time to listen, and after all…they made me this way.