Smith Rock Highline Festival live footageThanks to Mike Volk's hard work and appreciation for the development of Smith Rock State Park, as a climbing destination since the 1980's and more recently as a world-class highlining hot spot, he documented the first annual Smith Rock Highline Festival (SRHF) through live broadcasts on his hosted site smithrock.com.
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From time to time, even though the signs warn against it, it is necessary to feed the wild life. I’m not talking about pilfering out a couple peanuts for the local chipmunks, or scattering crumbs for a couple of hungry looking birds, I’m talking about nourishing one’s inner need for adventure. That part of your self that calls out for a hike, a climb, or a ride into the unknown.
Lately I’ve been malnourished, only sustaining myself on the few scraps I could salvage from the afternoons after work. Hungry for more, I packed a bag and jumped on a plane and found myself in the buffet known as Smith Rock. With a quick look around it is easy to see how filling this place can be. Spandex riding gear, harnesses swaying from the backs of climbers, and more sun screen than you can imagine make up the ingredients that can turn any person’s hunger into blissful satiation.
While Smith Rock has numerous options to appease even the pickiest of patrons, I found myself partaking in the heartiest of delicacies, highlining. If you are unfamiliar with the sport, imagine a tight rope walker at a circus; now take away the long pole they use to balance, take the tension out of their rope so that every step results in both lateral and vertical movement, then take the scene out of a circus tent and put it outside in a setting where the wind, daredevil cliff swallows, and 500 feet of nothing below you can play havoc on your mental faculties. Trust me when I say just witnessing the sport can be a heart-pounding experience.
Over the span of four days a small group of highliners traversed across Smith Rock walking—and establishing—various highlines. For some members this was their first experience with lines so high, for other veteran highliners this was a chance to challenge their personal records, not only for the height of the line, but for the length of a line as well.
On the last night in Smith Rock I looked around at my fellow adventure seekers. Their robust attitudes trumped their exhausted bodies; the talk is riddled with developing more highlines, and the possibility of a highlining festival in late summer has many people’s mouth watering. It is in these last moments at Smith Rock that I realize my hunger for adventure has been curbed, but like all cravings I know that the appetite will be back, and when that day comes you’ll hear me calling, “bon appetite.”
Travis Kuester is a contributing freelance writer, literary genius and slacklining friend living in Portland, Oregon. He always wears a smile and enjoys the small details of life that give it greater meaning. Here’s to life Travis and thanks for sharing your voice!
For the past six years I have been living a life more or less on the fringe of modern expectation and society. My definition of “home” has taken on many meanings, shifting from a sedentary house to a nomadic existence based out of a customized Honda Element a.k.a. Tiger Paws. Despite having finished a respectable stint in the public school system, graduating with a bachelors degree in spanish and anthropology from the University of Oregon, I have ultimately strayed from the traditional course of post-college life to seek out an unconventional and highly focused life on the line. This chosen lifestyle shift has fundamentally lead to many domestic sacrifices and a total reassessment of life goals, all of which have given me a refreshing new perspective on the world we all live in. The journey has taken many twists and turns, over many speed bumps and mountain passes, always leading toward a slower way of life that walks on the edge of the moment reminding me to live fully and abundantly with every step I take. In short, I have fallen in love with my inner purpose; of seeking better personal balance, while helping others to realize their own, by means of walking slacklines in the great outdoors. To sustainably live with increasingly greater focus, intention and meaning. To climb rocks of many sizes and walk atop 1-inch wide pieces of webbing over great expanses and voids in space. This is my life…
Both rock climbing and slacklining are relatively nonsensical challenges by themselves but what they provide in their opportunities for world exploration and a deep human bond with a balanced community is absolutely mind blowing and priceless. Their outdoor environments conveniently compliment one another and are the setting of my balanced being and total expression of joy. Through one experience you struggle and finesse your mind and body up a vertical world of rock, while in the other your attention is focused moving across a horizontal line in space. Without the skill sets of rock climbing it is hard to reach elevated positions, such as the tops of towers or cliffs, and without the rigging and engineering knowledge of constructing slacklines safely it is impossible to connect the two points in space, let alone walk between them successfully. These disciplines demand no explanation of “why do them” other than the experienced feeling of pure happiness achieved by the committed practitioner. They simply provide myself and others around me a psyche for life unparalleled by any other pursuit I have yet encountered.
I feel most aware and at peace with the world when engaged in these art forms. Everything is distilled down to the most fundamental level. I breathe, I become calm, I live in the blissful moment of the present uninterrupted. Aside from the shared physical/meditative movements involved in both, they require and enhance the human senses and cultivate a greater understanding of heightened awareness which I have become completely addicted to improving. When totally focused, I experience an elevated feeling that effectively shifts my perceived realities in a profound way, transporting the conscience mind elsewhere while moving in, and above, the most uniquely beautiful terrains available to this planet. This has directly resulted in spending a great deal of time living IN the OUT-of-doors with my best friends and has also provided a modern reconnect with a multitude of mother nature’s many expressions and mysteries. I am immediately reminded throughout all of this that life is precious and fleeting, not something to be taken for granted or procrastinated until retirement.
In essence, the adventures experienced through these filtered moments of balance have fundamentally shaped my evolving worldview, which continues to expand and appreciate with time. Through thick and thin, the vertical and horizontal worlds have pushed me toward my mental and physical boundaries to the point of many life epiphanies. One of which tells me that the “limits” we so commonly define for ourselves are far too often shortsighted of what our true potentials can actually be. I have learned who I am in the moment and what I am capable of achieving through disciplined patience, passion and practice… The lessons learned here are that I will always strive to live a more sustainably balanced life that fully resonates with my ever evolving passions and artistic expressions on a constant basis. This space is a glimpse and testament to the reality I have witnessed, created and pursued…