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Trail Tales | How One Couple Gets Rich With Travel

Trail Tales | How One Couple Gets Rich With Travel

In their day-to-day lives, Bob and Kit are what most would call a “normal” couple. They live modestly in their Ontario, Canada home, and spend most days working in offices, Bob as a computer programmer and Kit as an accountant. But in a society where labor seems to be overwhelmingly valued in material or a triumphant end-goal of retirement, Bob and Kit’s pursuit is something exceptional. They work for a wealth of experience.

“I know of so many people who work constantly and say they’ll travel when they retire,” Bob explained on a sunny May morning walking along the Merced River in Yosemite Valley for the start of our guided hike up the Mist Trail. “Then those people retire, and they’re either too old or out of shape to travel.”

“We figure, ‘Why not get out there now?’ We’re healthy today, and so are most of the places we want to experience.”

Bob’s philosophy—that everything is temporary and it’s better to get after life in the moment than save it for later—is the foundation of a perspective Kit shares, one that drives them to value present opportunity over hoarding money to spend down the line. Thus, the couple takes time off from work whenever they can to get active, and designates an ample chunk of their fun-tickets to traveling. Kit is an Ironman triathlete, Bob is her support team, and together they use the races as cornerstones for new adventures in iconic destinations. They also keep a running list of other dreamy exploits to fill their PTO, and sometimes they even take unpaid vacation time to check trips off the docket.

Last year, they conquered the Incan Trail to Machu Picchu, a laborious five-day expedition through the Peruvian wilderness that peaks among historic ruins high in the Andes Mountains. Their visit to hike Yosemite was part of a weeklong road trip up the California Coast—just a small, one-off adventure to add to their vault of invaluable memories. In the fall they’ll climb Mount Kilimanjaro and make another hefty deposit.

“We may not have the health to hike trails like these when we’re older,” Kit reflected as we paused to zip up our raincoats, admiring a rainbow bent over the pluming mist of Vernal Fall.

“That’s a big part of why we travel so much now. There’s so much out there that you can’t see from a tour bus, plus, staying fit is half the fun!”

Chugging up the granite staircase on the home stretch to Nevada Fall, Kit’s passion for fitness clearly paid off. Bob showed no signs of struggle either, and despite a handful of stops to take in the views and listen to tidbits of Yosemite history from their guides, the duo led the final ascent, topping our group out in less than three hours, and leaving plenty of extra time to relax before heading down. We spent it feasting on PB&Js and gazing over the rail above the fall, entranced by the mind-bending volume of water pumping into the basin 594 feet below.

It was the type of picture-perfect scene that some people pay thousands of dollars to frame on their wall, but never actually experience first-hand.

“Funny, we didn’t realize it was a special waterfall season,” Kit said as we started off toward the John Muir Trail. “It’s a good thing we didn’t put this trip off.”

Kit’s observation was spot-on—had the duo opted to visit Yosemite another time, a year or even a few months down the road, they likely would have passed up the uncanny spectacle of Yosemite’s waterfalls raging in all their glory. As it was, flow rates in the Merced River were up 170 percent of normal for May, and even Yosemite’s most veteran guides were claiming this to be one of the most outstanding waterfall seasons they’d experienced.

Rounding southwest through the Ice Cut on the way back to Yosemite Valley, our path became a shallow stream funneling through a tunnel of granite 1,000 feet above the world below.

We hopped from stone to stone attempting to save our socks, dodged snowmelt drizzling from the ancient overhang above, and otherwise laughed our way through the majestic gauntlet of fleeting water. In a few short weeks the same path would be bone dry, and while this section will always be spectacularly scenic, those engaged moments under such special conditions drove home Bob’s sentiment for how valuable now–at any given time—really is. The water beading off our raincoats felt as much a testament to the “live life while you have it” philosophy as the vacant acres of charred forest just south, relics of the bygone wealth of adventure that existed there just a summer before, until the Ferguson Fire swept it into the past.

Back in Yosemite Valley after a descent down the John Muir Trail, our group ended the trip in Happy Isles Fen on a natural high, gazing out across the field of green.

“This is what it means to be rich,” we all agreed.

-Mike Misselwitz

Experience the Nevada Fall Loop day hike for yourself.

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