The List

100 Ideas Toward a Larger Life

Dec 1, 1998
Outside Magazine

2. Retrace a Bit of Powell's Western Geographic Expedition.

Back in the '40s, at the tender age of 15, a California teenager named John Goddard—already aware of his sort-of-imminent mortality—decided to pen himself a list. On it, he included 127 adventures that at the time seemed worth having. He enumerated a desire to travel the Nile, to marry and have children, to read all the modern classics, to go skydiving, to study native medicines and bring back useful ones. By age 26, as he approached the delta of the Nile having paddled the river's 4,160-mile length, he'd already explored the Okefenokee Swamp; dived the Caribbean, the Red, and the Aegean; and flown 38 combat missions with the 15th Air Force in World War II—though this, of course, had not actually made his list.

Some years ago, Outside ran a story about Goddard. Since then, we've often considered checking up on him. (We did. He's on item number 108.) Moreover, we've pondered the very idea of a life list and wondered whether everyone shouldn't have one. Not a nebbish actuary's roster of deeds to be checked off—did that, done that, doing that—or a catalog of potential acquisitions both material and experiential, but a simple bundle of goals and attainable epics. An outline for a life well spent, without footnotes. To start you off, we've taken the liberty of assembling...well, if not your 100 essentials for a life fully realized, some damn fine possibilities. Feel free to tinker with them, plagiarize them, be roused by them. So lace up or strip down, because, really, shouldn't you be getting on with it?
1. Inflate Your Ego. Bomb the Couloir Extreme
A nasty elevator shaft, funnel-shaped with a 48-degree pitch. Yet the Extreme, at Whistler, is also strangely forgiving: If you auger in, you simply get spit out the far end—no fuss, just skivvies and a pole or two strewn back up the mountainside. And just so you know, make sure to call it Saudan Couloir. The pitch was originally named for Sylvain Saudan, the first gloryhound to ski an 8,000-meter peak. When Saudan sued Whistler for illegal use of his name, the suits at the resort rechristened it.

2. In an Open Dory, Retrace a Bit of Powell's Western Geographic Expedition
In May 1869, a former Union officer who'd lost his arm to a minië ball during the Battle of Shiloh set out from Green River, Wyoming, with nine men in four dories to explore the unmapped Green and Grand Rivers. The Grand would later become the Colorado, and by the time John Wesley Powell's trip down it was over, three of his men were dead, rocks and waterfalls had shattered two of his boats, and Powell and company had spent more than six months passing through land even Indians had never seen.

Today, the best way to trace Powell's route remains from a dory: a pointy-nosed, spirited wooden craft that rides atop waves rather than slopping through them as rafts do. Unless you have a spare six months, cut to the chase: Run the Colorado through the Grand Canyon. You haven't truly experienced the canyon until you've looked up at it from the water. The breadth of geologic time carved into its stone virtually guarantees a new perspective on life. It's a cosmic slap upside the head.

The longest-standing outfitter is Grand Canyon Dories (800-877-3679), founded by the legendary Martin Litton in 1968. Reserve your spot more than a year in advance; it'll be worth the wait. And go deep: Choose the 16-day expedition ($3,500) that traces the river's entire 280 canyon miles.