After a long day of outrunning thunderstorms on the outskirts of Moab, all I wanted to do was crawl into the tent and crash. Which was why, as my husband, Bix, rustled around in the sleeping bag next to me—rummaging around for a headlamp, jabbing me in the side as he peeled off his midlayer, zipping the tent, now unzipping it, all the while crinkling his sleeping pad—I found myself feeling vaguely annoyed.
Just as I was about to sweetly ask for a time estimate—something like “Any chance you’ll be letting me sleep at some point tonight?”—he turned to me as if he had something very important to get off his chest.
“I can’t wait,” he said dreamily, as if planning the many facets of our future together, “to drink coffee in the morning.” With that, he promptly fell asleep, and I was left to ponder the dulcet sounds of his gentle snoring.
Now wide awake, I chuckled a little. I knew he’d make it up to me in the morning. I planned to stay in my sleeping bag long after Bix had roused himself from the tent, stirring only when he presented me with a thermos of very strong coffee he’d French pressed.
Coffee, it seems to me, is both the cause of and the solution to most outdoor problems. In the morning, coffee is what gets my lazy carcass out of the tent. Most mornings, it is my sole motivation to crack an eye open, groggily check the weather, then get out of the tent. It is also, approximately ten minutes and three sips later, what causes me to track down a pit toilet or trowel with a great sense of urgency. The vast majority of my coffee-induced emergency trips to whatever’s passing for a bathroom end without incident, but for those few that don’t, I have to remind myself that caffeine works in mysterious ways.
In the afternoon, the promise of a post-adventure caffeine pick-me-up is all it takes to get me through the last few miles of, say, a very long and technical bike ride on which I’ve already flipped over my handlebars twice. Or, a day of climbing grades well outside my ability level. I’ve occasionally carried a camp stove to the crag to juice up around lunchtime, or whenever my Thermos runs dry. This is key, since at home there is no break between my morning cups and my afternoon fix; I’m jonesing pretty hard by 1 or 2 p.m. And on the rock, it’s all fun and games until I can’t tell whether the Elvis leg setting in two-thirds of the way up this pitch is because I’m pumped or over-caffeinated.
The afternoon brew is also one of the quickest ways to identify a fellow fiend. Whip out a Thermos of still-hot coffee at the crag, and just about everyone admires your ability to plan ahead. They also usually want a sip. Pull out a stove and drip filter, though, and those who really understand are drawn to your paraphernalia like moths to a flame. This is a double-edged sword. I’ve forged some of my deepest friendships over well-timed daily arrivals at the camp kitchen area, but also had to send a few moochers packing.
In the evening, if I’m still capable of being a human around the campfire, it’s because of how much coffee I’ve consumed over the course of the day. If I’m too tired to crack jokes and debrief the day—in case of an emergency, in other words—I’ll whip up a cup of the instant stuff as I make dinner. This habit is why, when I turn in for the night, I still have some time to lay awake and listen to my husband’s gentle snoring as I wait for the caffeine to wear off.