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John Cave Osborne

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John Cave Osborne is a writer whose work has appeared on such sites as Babble, TLC, YahooShine, and the Huffington Post. He was also referenced by Jezebel one time, but he’s pretty sure they were making fun of him. While he’s name dropping, it’s only fair to point out that Ashton Kutcher tweeted one of John’s YouTube videos, but it may have only been because Ashton felt sorry for him. After all, John went from carefree bachelor to father of four in just 13 months thanks to marrying a single mom, then quickly conceived triplets. Since then, he and his wife have added one more to the mix, a little boy they named Grand Finale. They all live chaotically in Knoxville, TN with Briggs the dog.

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Single Dad Laughing’s Mountaintop Rescue From the Perspective of a Hiker

By John Cave Osborne |

UPDATE: After this post was published, I received an email from Dan Pearce. He writes: “John, I respect your post. You did get some things wrong. Lynton was not a ranger. He’s a business owner who volunteers for Search and Rescue. And since you basically called me a liar, here’s the exact communication.”

What followed was a Facebook post from Lynton to Pearce which is unquestionably authentic in which Lynton does, indeed, categorize the hike exactly as represented in Pearce’s press release. I’d like to apologize for falsely assuming from Pearce’s press release that Lynton was a ranger and also point out that my incorrect assumption renders my skepticism regarding comments attributed to Lynton completely baseless.

I’d also like to apologize to you, Dan, for this error as well as to thank you for bringing it to my attention.

It’s been just over a week since the Internet was abuzz with the latest news from fellow Babble writer Dan Pearce. According to a self-written press release, the blogger behind Single Dad Laughing and a few of his friends experienced a mountain mishap when they mistakenly veered off of a trail they’d intended to hike and instead found themselves on one that was unmarked. They took this unmarked trail some six miles to the summit where Pearce experienced dehydration, fatigue and leg cramps which ultimately “caused him to collapse and go into shock.” A few hours later, Pearce’s day hike concluded with a dramatic mountaintop rescue executed by helicopter.

Cecily Kellogg wrote about the episode twice here on Babble. The first piece was a recap of what happened, the next a response to “tough questions” which her initial piece had raised with tough questions being a euphemism for outrage.

But outrage accompanying news involving Pearce is nothing new. And as I scrolled through the comments on Kellogg’s pieces, I wasn’t surprised to find that most of the commenters thought Pearce was lying, another common theme, as it’s always skepticism which fuels the fires of outrage that lie smoldering in the wake of his many contentions.

I don’t know much about Pearce. His writing doesn’t appeal to me, so I never stop by to read. And I believe that disconnect is why I’ve always been unaffected by whatever news it is he’s recently made. Which is why I was so confused that this latest bit of news affected me so. Until a friend helped me realize it was because Pearce had hijacked one of my truest loves – hiking. “And that’s your thing,” my friend concluded.

And my friend’s right. Hiking is my thing.

It’s impossible to pinpoint the number of miles I’ve hiked, but if I’m throwing out a guess, I’ll go with 1,000. And I don’t say this to come off all Billy Badass, but instead to suggest that I know a thing or two about the mountains. And from the perspective of a hiker, this bizarre tale boils to down to two things: skepticism and respect.

First, the skepticism. There were many elements of Pearce’s self-written press release that I found hard to believe, but none more so than when David Lynton, the forest ranger to first reach Pearce, said “That was the hardest hike I have ever done.” In such a situation, a ranger would be much more likely to categorize the hiker (as in, “Thank God he was okay.”) than he would the hike. The only purpose categorizing the hike serves is to glorify Pearce.

Regardless, experienced hikers aren’t quick to get out a blue ribbon and award it to any one particular trail, along with a plaque that reads “Hardest Hike Ever.” So I’d not expect to hear that kind of superlative from a mountain man who’s seen it all. It sounds more like the words of, well, a blogger. Particularly one who butters his bread by pulling on heartstrings.

From what I could glean, the hike was certainly a tricky little number to be certain, but I also come from a world of back-to-back-to-back 17-milers while carrying a heavy pack. And most (if not all) forest rangers are well versed in that world. So even if a forest ranger were prone to offering up “hardest-hike-ever” quotes, I can assure you that the recipient of such an accolade would not be the three-hour day hike that took down Dan Pearce.

Which leads me to another point of skepticism. It’s hard for me to believe that Pearce would actually pass out from a day hike. Oddly though, this is also exactly why I believe Pearce’s overall story. (Not every detail, mind you.) Because I don’t believe a person would make up something which casts himself in such an incompetent light.

I mean, first, there’s the whole getting-lost bit, a rookie mistake if there ever was one. But were I he, the embarrassment of getting lost would pale in comparison to the shame of knowing that my lack of planning, my lack of knowledge and my lack of physical conditioning turned a day hike into a search-and-rescue expedition that likely cost tax payers thousands of dollars.

So yeah, I believe the overall story. Why would Pearce cop to such ineptitude if it weren’t true?

And that’s where respect comes in and why, ultimately, this story flew all over me. Pearce’s decision to romanticize his embarrassing failure in a platitude-laden, self-written and self-aggrandizing press release (which described him as a “famed blogger”) showed an astonishing lack of respect for the mountain that had just chewed him up and spit him out.

And one thing I learned long ago is that you must never disrespect a mountain. Which is why my hiking buddy and I spend hours analyzing topography, mileage, water sources, weather patterns, shelters, and campsites before we ever settle upon the itinerary of one of our bi-annual Appalachian Trail backpacking trips.

It’s that respect, in fact, which compels me to temporarily trade my complex but comfortable life for a simple, arduous one – a decision I’ll both praise and curse as I hike up and down 3 to 5,000-foot inclines covering 15 to 20 miles a day armed with nothing more than 35 pounds of essentials, the clothes I’m wearing and a desire to lead a more meaningful life.

And I’ve logged enough miles to know that I’m not the one in control. The mountain is. For it decides when to deliver me unspeakable joy. Just as it decides when to bring me to my knees with mocking condescension, serving effective notice of my relative insignificance to the world above which it so majestically looms.

The mountain has made me cry tears of joy as often as it has tears of anguish. And once, it even made me cry tears of grief, only the trunk of a sympathetic pine keeping me propped up after a brutal uphill stretch – one that occurred toward the end of a tough day and teamed up with the release of endorphins and the recent passing of my sister to leave me a sobbing mess, crying unexpectedly, uncontrollably even, cries that were melancholy but beautiful and in perfect sync with the metronome of tears that drip-dropped, drip-dropped, drip-dropped upon the dry and dusty leaves that paved the trail on that unforgettable October afternoon.

The day I experienced my transcendental goodbye to Holliday. The goodbye the mountain had kept secret from me. The goodbye the mountain had arranged.

Shit, y’all. I’ve stumbled across countless metaphors while walking through the hills, and I’ve picked up every one of them, tucking each safely inside the place where my essence resides so that I might refer to them every now and again while walking through my life. And I revel in sharing them with the people I love, and sometimes even with my readers.

But not to celebrate me. To celebrate the mountains that haunt me like a beautiful ghost. Because it’s my way of telling them that I love them. That I appreciate them. That I fear them.

And that I respect them.

Toward the end of his self-written press release, Pearce says: “I can’t wait to get back up there. I’m going to conquer that mountain. I’m not going to let it conquer me.”

And that’s the part where I came undone. Because Dan seems to think he’s the one charge. And his ignorance — his arrogance — is beyond disturbing.

Because it’s never once been about the hiker, y’all. It’s always been about the mountain.

And any true hiker would know that.


Read more of JCO Multiplied:

10 Things I Wish My 10 Year Old Knew
15 Things Every Stepparent Should Know

The 7 Deadly Sins of Fatherhood
Raising Pretty Girls
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About John Cave Osborne


John Cave Osborne

John Cave Osborne is a writer whose work has appeared on such sites as Babble, TLC, YahooShine, and the Huffington Post. John went from carefree bachelor to father of four in just 13 months after marrying a single mom, then quickly conceived triplets. Since then, they have added one more to the mix, a little boy they named Grand Finale. Read bio and latest posts → Read John's latest posts →

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7 thoughts on “Single Dad Laughing’s Mountaintop Rescue From the Perspective of a Hiker

  1. Beta Dad says:

    Great post, John! I love to hike too (haven’t been doing it enough lately, though). I’ve also been a skier all my life and gone through phases of obsessive mountain biking. Like you, I would rather do almost anything than call search and rescue, even though I’ve gotten into some dicey situations. And if I did have to get rescued, I don’t think I would ever get over the shame.

  2. Birdman says:

    I can’t stand reading his blog, so I had never heard of this episode. I don’t even know what to think, because I don’t like thinking that everyone has an ulterior motive, but it reminds of Man vs Wild. All pomp and ceremony, with a little bit of filler. Ah well, great post, and your words almost make me want to start hiking. I said almost.

  3. graham da ponte says:

    This is so freakn good John. I knew there was a reason the SDL caper was bugging you–you’ve clearly identified the burr. Reading your piece I’m bugged too–though I admit I’ve had it in for SDL since his phony One Proud Mom story. Can’t wait to see what the mountain has in store for him now that he’s thrown the gauntlet.

  4. neal says:

    Hey John,
    How do you know he wrote that press release himself? Just wondering.
    I don’t love Dan’s style, but I do pop onto his site periodically out of curiosity. He certainly has a fan club.
    I’m basically with you on this. I’m big on the outdoors myself. I was on a Search and Rescue team when I was younger, and I remember wheeling out a guy who’d thrown out his back. It was a grueling four-mile hike off the mountain (which doesn’t sound like all that much until you figure in wheeling a 200 pound guy in a stretcher on a single wheel. He was probably about Dan’s size). I can’t imagine him saying “I can’t wait to get up there again!” It would have been kind of a slap in the face of the guys who got him off the mountain, after he was pushing his body in some dumb ways. At least not before saying, “I am a freaking idiot. I messed up, I learned my lesson. The next time, I’m going to be more careful, I’m going to use my head, and not risk getting a SAR team called on me.”
    I’m interested to hear him tell his story, if only to see if he cops to his stupidity. I’ve been stupid on mountains before, and I’ve learned my lesson. Happens to the best of us. But hopefully it only takes one lesson. If there’s anything you’ve got to respect as a hiker or backpacker, it’s that you have GOT to have enough water for your endeavor. ESPECIALLY in the west, where water is so rare. At least on the AT, you’ve got a good chance of finding water every couple miles as long as you’re not staying on the ridges. But in Utah? If you don’t know where your next water source is, you’re messing up big time. At the point you realize you’re running low, you’ve got to find another source, and you’d be an idiot to keep going UP a mountain thinking you’re going to find one.
    So, as much as Dan talks on his site about loving mountains and loving hiking in them, this sounds like a pretty noob experience, and I wonder if he’ll admit to not having been prepared, despite his dumb statement in the press release that “sometimes things happen that are outside your control.” If he sticks to that line, and doesn’t admit to having screwed up and paid for the error, that’s a real problem. Props to him if he instead uses it as a teaching opportunity to tell people not to do what he did, and apologizes for using up our tax-payer money for something that COULD have been prevented. We’ll see on Monday, I suppose.

  5. Clark Kent's Lunchbox says:

    Is there no end to this guy? The NYT just interviewed me (along with Andy and few others) about this guy 2 weeks ago. Seems they are skeptical too (haven’t seen the final article yet but they were working the ‘disprove’ angle hard).

    Passed out after one day? Bwhahahaha.

  6. Chris Chambliss says:

    JCO –

    I would recommend Dan attend an REI hiking 101 class and find an experience friend before he tries to “CONQUER” that 6 mile 3200-4000′ hike again!

    Or – I can send my 11 year old son Cooper to teach Dan some basic common sense.

  7. Kayla says:

    Oh wow. I like Dan Pearce, but then again, I seem to like just about everybody. Hmm.

    I love the way you see the mountains. I’m a mountain girl, but I’m no true hiker. You make me wish I was! I feel safest surrounded by them, but not so much wandering up in Appalachians. I would have to be very prepared and with someone experienced to do so.

    You are so eloquent! Thank you for sharing a piece of your world in this piece.

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