Six years ago, Mike McLellan, 58, truly started living. After getting his butt kicked by alcoholism, he lost his house, went through a divorce, and hit rock bottom. In losing everything, McLellan was left with nowhere to go but up…literally. He got sober and started hiking mountains, learned to ice climb, and in the past year, began rock climbing. He’s found spirituality, seen the Northern Lights, and become the man he’s wanted to be since he was 15 years old. In a few weeks, he’ll embark on a trip cross country to meet up with his youngest son in Colorado and continue to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. We kind of can’t believe how awesome he is:
So, were you born in Maine?
Yes I was. I’m a Maine-i-ac. Born in Westbrook.
Where’d you grow up?
I grew up in Windham…or I just grew older, depending who you ask.
(Lol) What’s made you stick around these parts for this long?
Well I raised a family here, I have four kids, and put them through schools.. Chevrus and McAuley. I raised a bunch of Maine-i-acs. Only one of them still lives in Portland.
Can I ask how old you are?
Yes, I’m 58 years old.
And you just started rock climbing, right?
That’s right. I started this past year.
Wow. That’s seriously awesome.
(Laughs) “My boss who is 35-ish says “I hope I’m in as good as shape as you when I’m your age,” and I told him “I actually want to be in better shape. I have some lb’s I’d like to drop. I want to keep progressing.
What inspired you to come to EVO?
Until six years ago I was a heavy drinker. I went through a divorce, I lost my house to my ex wife, and was kicked out…unless some work needed to be done. (Laughs.) In sobriety I’ve connected to nature again and found spirituality. I realized that even though I was losing the house, everything would be okay. And I realized I didn’t get sober to be bored.
Oh hell yeah. I love it!
Yeah, last fall my daughter, who lives in Burlington, Vermont, asked me if I wanted to go ice climbing. I’d tried it once before with a friend in recovery, and I thought “Jesus. I gotta get in better shape for this,” so that’s why I came to EVO. Conventional gyms have never done it for me.
To get better for ice climbing…
That’s hardcore. What else have you done in sobriety?
This spring I also got my Maine Guide license; something i’ve wanted to do since I was 15. It’s funny because 8 or 9 years ago I was on a hunting trip with some guys and they said “you know you should be a guide,” and I said “I don’t know if I could do it,” and they said, “what do you think you’re doing right now?”
Have you always been an avid outdoorsman?
I was an Eagle Scout, but I lost connection with nature throughout everything in life.
But in the past six years, you’ve reconnected.
Yeah! Two to three weeks ago I revisited Rattlesnake Pool in Grafton’s Notch; somewhere we used to visit as Scouts. It’s still cold, but beautiful, and I wore a GoPro jumping in. It was cool. Pun intended.
(Laughs) What keeps you climbing?
The upcoming trip with my son drives me, and the fact that I’m progressing slowly. I think what struck me with my first outside climb was there being four or five dynos, and being able to do them. I think about how many times I told myself I couldn’t do something, and think ‘wow, how long have I been settling limits on myself for things I can do?’
You’re pretty much the coolest person I know. Let’s talk about the upcoming trip with your son.
My youngest son lives in Colorado. We’re going to see Mt. Rushmore, and stopping a few other places along the way before we get to Yellowstone, where we’ll camp for four nights. It’s a 10 mile hike to Crescent Lake and 10 miles back. I’m also going to do a guided climb in Garden of the Gods; two years ago I was looking at people doing the same climb, thinking, ‘look at those crazy *******s!’ Now I’m the one doing it.
Basically, your life has completely expanded.
‘Expanded’ is a good way to put it. I still work hard, but I play twice as hard. I’d lost sight of what it means to be living. A few days ago I went rock climbing and ran three miles all in the same day. I’ve started a small photography business, (Loon Feather Photography), and I was able to be there for my dad before he died.
How long ago did he pass away?
Three weeks ago from pancreatic cancer.
Jeeze, Mike I’m so sorry to hear that.
It’s okay. I’ve had a tremendous amount of support. I put my hand out. I’m grateful that I got to spend time with him, and that he didn’t suffer long.
(Insert long convo here about death and spirituality, not included in this blog post.)
Mike's Father Keepin it Cool
Is there anything else we should cover?
Emphasis on the fact that I feel very blessed and grateful because I was definitely killing myself. Friends I was drinking with are no longer here, and that’s where I was headed. I’m blessed to have been given the gift of desperation, and if I inspire one person with this story, then ‘yahoo!’
“Yahoo” from me for sure. What are your plans for the future?
I want to go to Alaska…I might go one day and never come back.
Well, adventure on, Mike. What an honor getting to know you better.