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Pope has been climbing and hiking for the 13 years he has lived in Joshua Tree. Since the age of five he has also ridden dirt bikes, constantly seeking a thrill either in his day-to day life, in the open stretches of sand in the desert, or on the side of a mountain.

Photo by Cpl. Charles Santamaria

What I’ve Learned: Aric Pope

9 Jun 2014 | Cpl. Charles Santamaria

Aric Pope has been climbing and hiking for the 13 years he has lived in Joshua Tree. Since the age of five, he has also ridden dirt bikes, constantly seeking a thrill either in his day-to day life, in the open stretches of sand in the desert, or on the side of a mountain.

I’ve lived in Joshua Tree, Calif., for 13 years now and absolutely love the desert.

Most people see an empty space with sand, I see opportunity to do something cool.

Growing up in the desert made me discover how free it truly is. The wide-open desert is empty. No one complaining, it’s just calm and it has a lot of opportunities for fun.

I’ve been riding dirt bikes since I was five years old. When I ride, it’s for the experience of having no limits out in the open. Everything goes blank. I forget about all of my problems and stresses. It just becomes me, the bike and the desert.

There’s a lot of maintenance that goes into dirt bikes after riding, but it’s all worth it once you’re out there.

I’ve never done dirt bike racing or anything competitive, but when I’m with friends, we always challenge each other.

It’s more of a passion for me when I’m on my dirt bike; I’ll always be on two wheels.

I also got into rock climbing and hiking growing up.

Now that I think about it, no one ever introduced me to climbing, and I never really talked to my family about it. I lived in Joshua Tree, and there was a mountain in my backyard so I started climbing and that’s how it began.

Even when I was younger, I was never afraid of climbing something just because it was higher. I always just went for it.

The mountain behind my house was approximately 200 feet high so it was a combination of climbing and hiking to make it to its peak, but I always wanted to get all the way up just to see the desert from that vantage point.

The life or death situation of hanging on a side of a mountain gives me a sense of excitement I enjoy.

I don’t really ever use a harness; I just go out there with what I have on. It’s kind of dangerous, but that’s what makes it exciting.

I was eight years old the first time I made it to the top of the mountain behind my house. I didn’t want to go half way and plan it out, the goal was to make it up there.

I would go to my friend’s house and we would go to a fort I made up there. I just enjoyed the environment.

I see the desert in a different way. Every time I went up to the top, I saw this huge stretch 30 miles of desert, but I never only saw sand, I saw 30 miles of freedom.


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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms