Hiking with Mr.Hayes

Mr. Hays (right) on his first backpacking trip in Maroon Bells, near Aspen, Colorado in 2011.

| Courtesy of Mr. Kirk Hayes

Mr. Hays (right) on his first backpacking trip in Maroon Bells, near Aspen, Colorado in 2011.

- Lindsay Wilson

Q: Describe the feeling of climbing up a mountain?

A: Well, I mean it is my favorite thing to do. Although, climbing is not really the right word, more like hiking up it. 

Q: How long have you been hiking?

A: So I’ve always gone on like, little miniature trips with my family and stuff, but I wouldn’t even really call that hiking. So we started backpacking in 2013 or 2014 my brother took me on my first trip. And so, I just loved it after that, so now I’ve been doing it more and every year.

Mr. Hays (right) on his first backpacking trip in Maroon Bells, near Aspen, Colorado in 2011. (| Courtesy of Mr. Kirk Hayes)


Q: Why do you like backpacking/long intense hikes?

A: It just brings me a lot of enjoyment. You’re accomplishing something, like physical exercise, but then you’re also getting to see really beautiful stuff that you don’t ordinarily see when living in Oklahoma. I just really enjoy it. 

Q: Tell me about your favorite hiking expedition. 

A: Okay, so the longest and best hike that I did was with my now wife and my oldest brother Eric. We hiked from Canada to Mexico on The Pacific Crest Trail. So it’s a 2,650-mile trail, and you know, you get to see so much because all you’re doing every day is hiking. So, it was definitely a life-changing experience, and one that my wife and I are always like, “remember the time that we were here and freezing?” and “remember the time we were here?” Most of the time, the best memories you have are actually like the worst times you had, you know what I mean? Because you can look back on it, and talk about the suffering that you went through with the person that was actually there with you. So, I don’t know, we like to do that a lot.

Eric Hays, Mr. Hays, and his wife Samantha at Crater Lake during their hike of the Pacific Crest Trail in 2015. (| Courtesy of Mr. Kirk Hayes)

Q: How long does it usually take to prepare for a trip?

A: It takes a ton of time actually because the main thing that sucks is a lot of these places are super popular destinations so you have to get permits to hike them. And the permit process is really competitive so you have to like, you know, sometimes eight months in advance book a location, to be able to camp overnight. And so, you know, you have to be really prepared in advance for that. But then as far as getting my food together, making sure all my gear still works, you know, how it did last year and all that stuff, usually like a week-ish, you know, got to go buy your packaged tuna and all that stuff that you eat while you’re on the trail.

Q: Do you have any other longer expeditions you’ve been on?

A: Yeah, I mean, the most recent one that I went on, that actually has a cool story that goes with it, is that I hiked in Routt National Forest, or wilderness and it’s in Colorado. And it was just a one-night backpacking trip with some friends, and six miles before we were back to our car, a dog started following behind my wife. And we realized that, you know, there was no owner coming behind this dog and that the dog was super skinny. So we tried feeding it a little bit, and it ate our food but it wouldn’t come up to us. And honestly, at this point, this I guess makes me a bad person, but we could not get the dog to come to us. So I was like, you know, “we got to keep going,” like “get back to the car,” you know, “we don’t have any food left…” So we were planning on getting back to the car and then going to dinner, and then going home for the night. But my friend Keelan was like, absolutely determined to get this dog to trust him. So, the dog finally trusts him, lets us come up to him, and then as soon as we do, the dog just collapses like it’s totally out of energy. And so we started figuring out a way that we were going to get this thing out of the, you know, mountains and it ended up that he, my friend Keelan, emptied out his backpack and I carried all his gear, and then we put the dog in his backpack and he carried it out. And so now they actually have that dog. Yeah, so it’s just like, I could have never imagined something like that happening to me on a backpacking trip. But that’s one of the reasons I like going on them is what people call “Trail Magic”, just for some reason whenever you’re hiking on a trail, some like, magical things happen. So at first when we were trying to get the dog to come with us. The ideal situation was to put a leash on it, and walk it out of the forest, right. So then we’re not having to carry anything extra. And some random backpackers walk by us, and they see what’s going on, and they’re like “we have this leash”. And we’re like, “Well, why do you have a leash?, Where?, You know, do you have a dog with you?”, and they’re like, “No, I just had this in my backpack”, and it was just like, What are the odds of this? You know what I mean? And the reason this dog actually even ended up finding us at all was that we took a wrong turn. And we were on this section of trail that we shouldn’t have been on for maybe 30 seconds to a minute, and that wrong section of trail is where the dog first saw us and started following us. So, I don’t know, I just feel like there’s definitely some magic that goes on whenever you’re hiking.

Mr. Hays, along with his wife, friends, and Routt (the dog) in Colorado in July 2020. (| Courtesy of Mr. Kirk Hayes)

Q: How long have you been teaching?

A: 5 years

Q: Why did you become a teacher?

A: a couple of different reasons, so one, I have always loved teachers. Like in the seventh grade, Miss Burnett was my math teacher, and we started eating lunch with her in her room. We called it Lunch Crew. Then eighth-grade year we did the same thing with Miss Starks, also a math teacher. I don’t know why I guess I’m just drawn to math teachers for some reason. But I just have always really looked up to teachers, and think that they have a really cool job because they can say that their job actually matters, whereas a lot of jobs you just go. I was going to be an accountant, and you go to your job, and at the end of the day, it’s like, yeah you helped out a few clients or whatever, but if you weren’t there to help somebody else would have been. And you just don’t have that big of an impact versus a teacher. It’s like, you get to influence kids and be around kids and I just think it’s a more fulfilling thing to do than just some other ordinary job. And hey, and you get summers off. So, were you gonna say you couldn’t do it you don’t think? Everyone thinks they can’t do stuff. You’d survive just fine. I think after every year that it’s gonna be my last year because I’m like, burned out, but that’s why teachers get the summer off. It’s not because we deserve it really; it’s because if there wasn’t a summer break every teacher in the building would have to quit because they couldn’t (you can’t just continuously) teach. You know what I mean? It’s too draining.

Q: What’s one thing you want your students to learn from you? (not school-related)?

A: Some of my classes are focused more on finances, but the main thing that I want students to get from me is just a sense of minimalism, or that you don’t need as much stuff as a lot of people think you do to be happy. So, I’m sure a lot of students have realized that I wear the same set of clothes all week, you know and then I wash them and I wear them again next week, like, I don’t drive a fancy car, I live in a very small house. I just want kids to see that life’s not all about just buying the newest, whatever. And so I talk a lot about that in my accounting class, but not as much in my web design classes, just because it’s not as relevant, you know. But yeah, definitely, that’s kind of what I want them to learn from me.

Q: You teach accounting and you went to school for accounting, but why did you decide to teach that instead of something else?

A: Well, I really do like accounting, just the general subject, and like the concepts that go behind it. When you go to your real job. Most of the fun stuff that I enjoyed about accounting was done by a computer, and so it kind of took the fun out of it. But when you get to teach it, you still get to go over the stuff that made me fall in love with it. So that’s why I like teaching it, but I did teach math for one year. I might be the only high school accounting teacher in the whole state, so I had to start teaching, you know, and making money so the only job that was open was an algebra two job, so I took that here. And then I just got lucky that the accounting teacher quit the year later and then I’ve had the job since, so just kind of lucky honestly. 

Q: Why web design?

A: Well, I don’t have a good answer for that because it just kind of fell on my plate. The teacher that taught accounting also taught web design, it’s like a pair of classes that come together. And I honestly didn’t know anything about web design when I took the job, but I took the job at the beginning of the summer and then spent, I don’t know how many hours but a lot, making sure that I knew enough that I could at least teach the class decently. And then every year since I’ve gotten better and better, you know, I actually kinda know what I’m doing now.

Q: Was tennis the same situation or did you pick tennis?

A: Well, yeah, I picked tennis because the biggest influence in my life when I was in high school was my tennis coach and math teacher. And I still play tennis with my family once a week on Thursday nights. And so, I like spending time outside like we’ve talked about. And so, if I could trade teaching inside the building for one more hour versus going outside and playing tennis with my high school kids for another hour, I’m obviously going to pick the latter.

Q: What’s your favorite coaching memory?

A: I’m gonna make all the kids, you know, whatever I pick some other kid is going to be unhappy with what I chose. So I feel like all the great memories that I was going to have last year were ruined because of the season being shortened, like we only had one tournament and then COVID happened. But I guess I’ll just say my favorite memory from last year was one of my seniors, Carson Nash. He, you know, didn’t always take practice super seriously. And so I was always worried like, “Is this going to be how he treats competitions?”, but he had this absolutely incredible match that went into a third set tiebreaker and he was down, and he ended up, you know, coming back and winning! And additionally, I don’t know, it gave me that proud coach moment. And it just made me happy that he had competed so well and ended up winning the match. So, I thought that was cool.

Clayton Reiger, Drew Dillon, Mr. Hays, Carson Nash, and Blake Diehl after their end of the season:year banquet in 2020. (| Courtesy of Mr. Kirk Hayes)