Brace Yourself—Your Spring Smackdown Is Coming

Memorial Day—the starting pistol for spring and summer sports—is just around the corner, and with it you’ll probably hear some of the most dangerous phrases uttered by us outdoorsy folks: I’ve got this, and I’m sure it’ll be fine. It’s like when the wisecracking character in a scary movie says, “Dude, I’ll be right back.” You know an axe is coming for that guy, for sure and soon. I know from personal experience that those phrases are almost always followed by an immediate smack down by whatever activity I’m doing.

We’ve all been there. Overconfident in our outdoorsy skills after a winter spent skinning and skiing or generally just being a frosty badass. A 30-mile mountain bike ride to open the season? Yeah, sounds easy. I’m a skier, bro. Giant multi-pitch climb out the gate? No prob. I’ve bouldering in the gym for months. An easy-peasy weekend camping getaway? Ha! No need to check the gear that’s been hibernating in bins all winter. I totally stored it well. But what really happens is this: We forget how to change a flat, we can’t find our harness, and we have no idea what that black, furry stuff is growing on the rim of our two-burner stove. And how the hell do you put together this backpacking stove anyway?! It’s spring, friends. Prepare to be humbled.

I recently traveled to Austin for my cousin Claire’s wedding. My sister Kitty, in all her Maid of Honor brilliance, wanted to start the wedding day off with a rad activity we could all participate in together. She chose Soul Cycle. I knew nothing of Soul Cycle other than it had some stationary bikes and music. Cool. I’m into it. I’ve been skinning and skiing all over the American West, up in Canada, and during a big trip to Norway this season. My legs feel like they could crush a watermelon.

After only five minutes of spinning in the pitch-black room, which was hotter than a Turkish bathhouse and throbbing with club anthems blasting from the speakers, I knew I was—how should I say it—effed. My thighs were on fire. My back porch felt like it was on a rotisserie spit. My lungs tried to detach from my body and run away. I was sweating sausage gravy. But I got this, right? Wrong. All I could do was laugh at the beat down and sing along to Top 40 dance beats with an instructor more energetic than a squirrel that got into a few dozen Pixy Stix. Woof.

A couple weeks later, I heard another tale of springtime badass beatdown. A serious I’m-sure-it’s-fine camping suckerpunch. My friends Meag and Cooper planned to make their escape from town after work on Friday and buzz down to Fruita, Colo., for some mountain biking. They’re not exactly newbies—they’re the types who will crush you on the trail. Who probably camp way more than you do in the summer. Meag owns a pretty kickass teardrop trailer, which, along with both of their camping and biking equipment, has been sitting in the same spot since it was parked last fall. Ready to hit the road, Cooper hooked the trailer up—but its lights didn’t work. After two hours at Napa Auto Parts, an employee pointed out that they needed to ground the wiring. Duh.

They also forgot their bikes. No problem—camping and hiking will be just fine. Oh, but what about dinner? Meag found a super easy looking but gigantic recipe where all camp cooks look: Etsy. And like many Esty attempts, it failed miserably. Cooper and Meag enjoyed foil-wrapped charred gobs of chicken and cheese and ranch dressing and, well, you get the point. Meag also forgot her sleeping bag. After the heater in the trailer died because they forgot to charge the battery, she ended up wearing every piece of clothing Cooper brought, including his wool socks—on her hands. Shivering in a single mummy bag inside a tin trailer-turned-pain-cave, wondering if they’d suffer the effects of salmonella poisoning, I’m sure they were thinking, Yay spring!

Meag and Cooper’s story is a warning: We don’t got this and it ain’t gonna be fine. That is, unless we triple check our double checks. Roll those sleeping bags out to check for holes and mouse turds. Open up your two-burner and scrub the crusty remains of last summer’s last breakfast. Air out those dry bags and water shoes. Set the tent up in your backyard. Try to remember how to pack a backpack. And don’t forget the poop kit. Make a list, check it, and check it again. Spring—and camping season—is upon us. Get your mulligan out of the way so you can dial your system and get back to being the badass outdoors person you are. And for the love of everything sacred, someone please show me how in the hell I screw this thing into that thing on this tiny stove. And what’s this little lever right here for again?

Photos by Forest Woodward and Joey Schusler.