Back in the '40s, at the tender age of 15, a California teenager named John Goddardalready aware of his sort-of-imminent mortalitydecided 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 IIthough 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 offdid that, done that, doing thator 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 endno 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.
Don't Be Getting Ahead of Yourself
Take a step back and start from the beginning with the first 25.
27. Catch a Fish on a Fly You Tied.
26. Make Your Own Steel
By Ian Frazier
My grandfather, Ray Frazier, worked all his adult life in a steel mill in Cleveland. Much of that time he was a foreman at the Jones & Laughlin plant by the Cuyahoga River in the industrial flats of the city. He worked six-and-a-half days a week, he never took vacations, and he telephoned the plant to check on the blast furnaces first thing when he got up in the morning and last thing before he went to bed. Through the Depression and World War II, he essentially worked himself to death at the mill, and he died in 1951, the year I was born.
I am so post-industrial that I have never set foot inside a steel mill, let alone worked in one. I have almost no mechanical skills, and often must ask for help with tasks like adjusting the position of the driver's seat in my rental car. Nevertheless, I would like one day to make some steel. If I had the time and money, here's what I would do: I would drive a small truck up to the ore deposits around Duluth, Minnesota, obtain (preferably by digging) a half-ton or so of iron ore, and take it to my friend Tim's house in western Massachusetts. He likes the idea of making steel from scratch, and says he thinks it can be done. We would build a small furnace, get or make some coke for fuel, build a smelter.... I haven't worked out the details. Mainly what I envision is a period of sweat and grime and minor burns culminating in the final product: an ingot glowing bright red, which cools to my own personal gunmetal-silver slab of raw steel. I would put it on my bookshelf as a totemic object, as an homage to my grandfather, and as a small laugh in the face of industrial decline and the all-conquering service economy.
Ian Frazier, a frequent contributor, is the author of Coyote v. Acme and four other books
27. Catch a Fish on a Fly You Tied
28. Release an Orphaned Bird of Prey You've Raised
29. Touch a Haggis
30. Fast for Two Days
3 Get Big Air.
3. Get Big Air
4. Land Smoothly
5. Run the Real Marathon
If you're going to take on 26.2 miles of agony, why not embrace history and head for the very soil where agony was invented? Every year, a race retraces Pheidippides' storied steps from Marathon to Athens, where he proclaimed victory over the Persians in 490 b.c., and then keeled over, dead as a box of hair. Next year's happens October 31, so start polishing your finish-line statement now. But remember: "Rejoice, we conquer!" is already taken.
6. Eat a Durian
It looks like a cross between a pineapple and an Ewok, and reeks so bad it's banned from buses in Singapore. Yet fans of this green, spiky Southeast Asian fruit get all misty and rhapsodic when they speak of its rich, custardy core. Smells like hell, they say, but tastes like heaven.
7. Touch the Amazon
8. Do a Through-Hike
Of course there are the classics, like the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest. But also consider the untested: Last year, a guy named John Brinda strolled from Key West to Cape Gaspë, Quebec, lapping the AT by 2,700 miles. Be creative: a pan-Andean hike South America waymaybe the Darien Gap to Tierra del Fuego? Don't forget to write.
9. Be Prepared to Save a Human Life
10. Spend a Night in Utter Silence
Except for maybe your own heartbeat. Smack in the middle of the Makgadikagadi Pans in Botswana's Kalahari Desert, you won't hear so much as a mosquito. And for $365 a night, the good people of Jack's Camp schlepp a king-size bed (complete with down pillows, comforter, and chambray sheets) onto the salt pansa broad, desiccated, and uninhabited ancient riverbed (book through Explore, 888-596-6377). Then they split, leaving you alone with the night sky, stars, and unbounded nothingness. No critters, no bugs, no lights.
14. Be Competent Outdoors.
11. Walk on the Moon.
By Alan Bean
Once on the Moon's surface you'll quickly discover that walking is pretty difficult, while running is easy. So let's talk about your brief run on the Moon.
First the good news. In this gravity, one-sixth of Earth's, you'll feel very strong. You'll feel as light on your feet as you could possibly expectlighter, even. For example, let's say you weigh, as I do, about 180 pounds on Earth. Suddenly your legs only have to support 30 pounds. That's great!
Now the bad news. You're going to have to wear a 150-pound space suit and backpack to provide breathing oxygen and cooling water in the hard vacuum and blistering environment of the Moon.
But wait...even this bad news is still good news! Despite the bulky space suit, you'll still be supporting only 55 pounds; you'll soon notice that gravity doesn't pull you back to the surface as quickly as it did on Earth. After pushing off on one foot, there will be a long wait until you land on the other, exactly like running in slow motion. The interesting part is that you'll feel your leg muscles relax completely as you glide along, awaiting that next step. Your legs will never seem to tire, no matter how fast you run. (But pay attention to exactly where you point your moon boots. It wouldn't be a good idea to land on a rock or in anything but the smallest crater. A little free advice.) As you run, you'll feel as if you're leaping long, impossible distances. And in fact you are.
It'll all be over much too soon. Your backpack can carry only so much cooling water, and it's advisable not to run out of refrigerant too far from your spaceship.
On the ride home, you won't be the same person who left Earth just five days before. You'll feel more grateful, more blessed simply to be a human. Why? Because nothing else in the universe that we know of has the will and the ability to do what you just did.
Alan Bean walked on the Moon on November 19, 1969, as a crewman on Apollo
12. Take a Year Off
13. Take Another Year Off
14. Be Competent Outdoors
Your best tack: Be born to a parent who's a registered Maine Guide. Short of that, there's no shame in a stopover at the National Outdoor Leadership School's Wind River Wilderness program ($2,075; 307-332-5300). After two weeks in Wyoming's Wind River Rangeone of the Lower 48's most dramatic and least populated landscapesyou'll emerge undaunted by backcountry camp setup, rock climbing, backpacking, wilderness first aid, and fly-fishing.
20. Now, Swim Naked.
15. Follow the Blues
From Beale Street in Memphis through the Mississippi Delta to Clarksdale, home of Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, stopping for a shot and a beer at Smitty's Red Top Lounge before heading down Highway 61, along Robert Johnson's orgiastic road to hell, and then drifting through prisons and plantations all the way down to New Orleans, where Louis upped the ante, where losers can still win.
16. Learn to Play Harmonica Well Enough That Friends Find It Entertaining, Rather Than Loathsome
17. Enter a Junkyard Carrying Nothing but a Toolbox and a Battery. One Week Later, Drive Out
18. Better Yet, Live for Six Months Without a Car
19. Get Pretty Fit
Yeah, sure, your Ironman training starts any day now. In the meantime, these baseline parameters will almost assure you of being able to glance at a mirror without recoiling. Think of them as the Workingman's Quadrathlon.
- Do 50 push-ups
- Do 100 crunches (slowly)
- Do 10 pull-ups
- Run a six-minute mile
- Extra credit: Bench-press your own weight
20. Now, Swim Naked
Like certain other pastimes, skinny-dipping is more fun when there's a risk of being observed. Peconic Bay on Long Island has few crowds, even in summer, and slipping into the gentle swell under a moon brings out the bioluminescence of the sea, some lonely strollers, and, well, anything else in sight.
Not Enough For Ya?
Ready to take on the rest of the list? All right, then... Brave Items 26-50
23. Catch an Eruption.
21. Attempt Midnight Lightning
Rarely do history, ambience, and pure animal challenge converge so tidily as at Yosemite's Camp Four, a walk-in campground that still charges just $3 a night. At center sits 40-foot Columbia Boulder, with a chalk graffito identifying the overhanging-granite route for all to see. Though Yvon Chouinard, Doug Tompkins, and others in climbing's Rat Pack scampered around on it in the '60s, not till 1978 did Ron Kauk prove a person could climb it bottom to top. At least he could.
22. Ski the Dachstein by Starlight, One More Time
By John Skow
I did this once already, in a strange, waking dream, on a moonless spring night years ago. Several Austrian friends and I were doing a skis-and-skins tour, as we did every weekend until a sun-blasted Sunday in mid-June, when by tradition our last runout ended in the middle of a small stream, skis submerged and boots filling with snowmelt. Jah, und...? I am thinking in rough-and-tumble mountaineer's German now, thinking that although what we did that dark night was a long run down a shallow glacier, I may have misplaced the glacier. Memory is a great liar. Does the Dachstein even have a glacier? From three decades' distance, I'm not certain. No matter. Wherever we were, we were there, traversing from one high valley up and over to another, well before dawn. We stripped off climbing skins, locked our heels down (the reinvention of telemarking came a decade later), and shoved off into blackness, one by one. The high, indistinct horizon offered nothing to brace my balance against. Since I could see nothing except a few stars, the only way to judge speed was by the sound of skis on hard corn snow. I was skiing by ear.
This slow, dreamlike descent went on for maybe 10 minutes. Then I realized I no longer heard the scrape of skis on snow. The glacier had flattened, and I had stopped. A cough and the rustle of equipment said that my friends had beached nearby. No one spoke. I reached down and freed my bindings, a man roused from sleep.
John Skow is a regular contributor to Outside.
23. Catch an Eruption
Popocatepetl, Mexico? Mostly steam and ashbig deal. Lava flow you want? Merapi, Indonesia, is the place, but you could wait around forever for some decent village mayhem. So get to Stromboli, Italy, which has several eruptions a day and gooey "lava blobs" around the crater, seething like alien life.
24. Hunt Hidden Treasure
There are still some dandies out there, they say: Atahuallpa's golden rope (pure and hundreds of feet long), coiled away in the Andes; that old standby Atlantis. But you can start closer to home, on Oak Island. In 1795, on this outcrop off Nova Scotia, three men found a huge oak with a limb sawed off and a filled-in pit beneath the missing branch. They began digging, and every 10 feet found an oak platform or other blockage. A hundred feet down, the pit filled with seawater. Since then, wild fables of what lurks below have sprouted: Inca gold, pirate loot, Marie Antoinette's jewels.... The latest whopper dates to 1972, when an underwater camera is said to have photographed wooden chests anda priceless detail, authentic or not&3151;a human hand.
25. Go 300 Miles Under Your Own Power, from Your Own Front Door