Trail Lake, as seen from the summit of L V Ray Peak near Moose Pass on Sept. 5, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak)

Trail Lake, as seen from the summit of L V Ray Peak near Moose Pass on Sept. 5, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak)

Passion and risk

Sept. 29 and 30 were not good days for me.

On Sept. 29, I covered the 72-24 victory of the Soldotna football team over Kenai Central and wrote, headlined, Tweeted and Facebooked that the Stars scored on all nine possessions. Obviously, at least to those in command of elementary math, the Stars scored on all 10.

On Sept. 30, I covered the Kenai River Marathon. In typing results, I misspelled the name of a former Clarion reporter and current columnist. She — while running the race — was able to calculate the steps she took in the half marathon, but I was not able to count the number of r’s in her last name correctly.

To top it off, while putting together the sports page that night, I ran the Birch Ridge Golf Report meant for Sept. 24, not Oct. 1.


One of my favorite sportswriters growing up in Wisconsin was Cliff Christl, the longtime Packers beat writer. He would always say there’s no excuse for errors in copy. That’s the case here.

But as I get older and wearier, I worry less about perfection and more about passion. Hit the bull’s-eye every time and you’re not really trying. You’re not really learning.

Clarion sportswriter Joey Klecka and I went for it that weekend. With state cross-country in Anchorage, Kenai-Soldotna football and Nikiski’s homecoming, a full sports slate would put 10 staff-written reports, plus photos, in the Sunday paper. Then I had to provide photos, story and type the results from the marathon Sunday.

We could have done a less ambitious coverage plan, but we got out of our comfort zone in responding to the passion the community had for all the events that weekend. That’s when mistakes happen.

It reminded me of a hike I did to the summit of 4,840-foot L V Ray Peak above Moose Pass recently.

I’m no mountaineer, but I have a passion for walk-up summits. When I see a summit photo sent by a friend, posted on a blog or rolling on my Strava feed, I imagine myself there. I want to be there. Bad.

That has its benefits. I’ll get my work done to get there. I’ll get my chores done to get there. I’ll go through 30 minutes to an hour daily of mobility work, vision work, vestibular work, meditation and respiratory competency to make sure my balky back can get me there.

I’ve thought I was passionate about a lot of things in life, but I would do none of the work, none of the chores, none of the exercises for those things. Passion isn’t a willingness to put in the time. It’s a willingness to put in the work.

And then me, and two experienced hikers, were almost to that L V Ray summit. There’s a pinch point about 300 feet from the top where a gorgeous ridge walk with views of Trail Lake all the way to the Snow River and Resurrection Bay gets a bit dicy.

My two companions said they were going no farther. I’d been on the summit less than two weeks earlier by myself. I told them I would drop down a ledge, scamper on a little rock path thousands of feet in the air, and hit the summit again.

I don’t consider myself a risk taker. I didn’t think there would be a problem.

There wasn’t — on the way to the summit. On the way back, I went to climb that ledge and a rather large chunk of it came loose in my hand and scuttled down the mountain.

I wasn’t in danger — I was more freaked out than anything — but my two companions had passed on this pinch point. Why hadn’t I? What hadn’t I even considered that they knew what they were doing and at least think it over a bit? Had I gotten summit fever — the same passion that made this hike possible — and let it get the best of me?

It’s an especially tough question because I’ve discovered the power of passion and don’t want to give it up. Find something you love — truly love — and suddenly work gets done, chores get done and boring exercises get done in order to make that thing happen.

Yet passion carries some risk. And part of passion means being aware of that risk and mitigating it.

But the biggest risk, I think, is a life devoid of passion at all.

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