“We turned and sailed away, joining the outgoing bergs, while “Gloria in excelsis” still seemed to be sounding over all the white landscape, and our burning hearts were ready for any fate, feeling that whatever the future might have in store, the treasures we had gained would enrich our lives forever.”
John Muir in Wilderness Essays
This is the question. What do we take away from our wilderness experiences? Why do we spend our time in the out of doors? We can only answer that our lives are enriched. And we can answer that it leaves us ready to walk into future experiences with renewed curiosity and open attitudes. Our experiences Insert joy into our daily existance. They clean the slate to prepare mental space for the next trail.
Just getting out of school? Facing a screeching mid-life crisis? Laid off? Finally rewarded with retirement, and the lack of direction is a bit scary? Lost a bit, body, soul, or both? Well, don’t spoil the opportunity by getting a job. Don’t snatch up the unnecessary loads that everyone seems so eager to put on your back, not yet anyhow.
David Hiscoe in Take the Path of Most Resistance
Facing a crisis? Major change in your life? Now is the chance to do something big by not taking the expected course. When does life give the opportunity to take that long hike on the Appalachian Trail or paddle the length of the Mississippi River? Do more by minimizing the distracted lifestyle. Throw off the shackles that define the tedious slog of day to day details. Seize the opportunity to lay down some memories that will last you long into your sunset years!
I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.
Henry David Thoreau in Walden
The value of reading, hiking, or time in the wilderness lies in the chance to travel, either intellectually or physically in solitude. Trudging along a muddy trail or rereading a favorite line of Frost’s poetry creates the space for a mind to wander. To explore. To seek out new vistas.
Jane Congdon, the author of How the Wild Effect Turned Me into a Hiker at 69, writes about her life changing experience on the Appalachian Trail. She cites several quotes that reflect upon the effect that nature has on how we view our world and how we view ourselves.
What you can’t give away you must carry with you, it is always heavier than you thought. -from a poem by Margaret Atwood
It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves. -Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to summit Mount Everest
Our outdoor hiking experience allows us to look inside, reflect and leave behind some of the heavier load. I like to take a stroll with the dog at the end of the day. It is my chance to walk off the day, leave behind that which has no future value.
Is education possibly a process of trading awareness for things of lesser worth?
Aldo Leopold in A Sand County Almanac
It is a constant trade-off. We check a social media app on our phone and we miss the glint of light reflecting off an ice crystal. We succumb to the rattle ring of our cell phone and don’t notice the subtle shift of the breeze. We need the chance to turn it all off. We need rivers, pines, mountains and wilderness to remind us of our place in the world.
My morning routine always involves reading. This morning’s selection was The Winds of March in The Singing Wilderness by Sig Olson. His opening sentence captured my thoughts.
“TO ANYONE who has spent a winter in the north and known the depths to which the snow can reach, known the weeks when the mercury stays below zero, the first hint of spring is a major event. You must live in the north to understand it.”. Sig Olson
As another round of snow invades the northland, we are waiting for the first hint of spring. I’m ready for the first hint of warm breeze and the drip of water off the roof.But most of all, I’m waiting for the first wet sloppy hike in the woods.
”What if there were a secret back-door portal to enlightenment? A shortcut, so to speak. I believe that the answer lies here, in wilderness. The shortcut is the long walk. However, you must go it alone. ”