Out here, I live by the sun, transported by muscle, feeling the vastness of the natural world ... my milieu. It takes a while to get to the back of beyond, the depths of nature. And how much more I appreciate it. The world is changing by the second; I want to see it while I can. God-given beauty surrounds me and embraces me.
The Southern Appalachians are beautiful. Yellowstone is beautiful. So are the Tetons. So are the Everglades. Beyond the beauty are elements of adventure and freedom. A chance to be individualistic. The need to be responsible. Centuries ago, what became Americans settled our country. No roads. No motels. No accurate maps. No roadside attractions. People died of disease, heat, cold, Indians and snakes. They were buried and the rest moved on.
Now, parts of our mountains (Think: Smokies) have park service visitor centers, air conditioning, cruise control, and nature trails. Someone trips over a rock at a scenic turnout and their lawyer sues somebody for millions. How far we have come in such a short time.
Outdoor exploration has inherent risk — the possibility of getting lost, maybe being swamped, and maybe dying. That is the kick — the high we can find in Death Valley, Florida Bay, or Grizzly Creek. The outdoors still provides some of the classic elements of adventure.
The concept of adventure has gotten watered down over the last few years. Remember Stanley, Byrd, Hillary, McKenzie, or Lewis and Clark? Their adventures had challenge, risk, uncertainty and responsibility. Sometimes you find or achieve something great. Sometimes you fail or mess up and are happy to get home in one piece. Now we have scores of “adventure travel” companies. Show up with your toothbrush and bathing suit and they will provide you with the experience of adventure. Wrong! You have paid your money to eliminate the risk, and for someone else to take the responsibility. It is not adventure; it is a ride. There is a difference between an adventure and a vacation. It all depends on how you get there, physically and spiritually.
An adventure starts at home with a place and an idea. I come up with a plan, where to explore, and subsequently put together an outing. I decide what to take, what not to take, whom to take, how long I will be gone and the best way to get from point A to point B. The onus is on my shoulders.
All the decisions are mine and my neck is on the line if my plan fails. Uncertainty. Risk. Challenge. Responsibility. Fear and a dry throat. The elements of true adventure.
As I write, outdoor memories flood in like an August hurricane. In the end, all we have are memories. What mountains, shores and wildlife I have seen. My brain reels with ponderables. The relationship between man and nature ... the modern condition ... development … preservation … the past … the future …
There are times in life when you have experiences that open up a new world you never knew existed. And this new world has to be reworked into your tenets. Or your tenets have to be reworked into the new world. To all of this, the outdoors adds perspective to our lives. Try it for yourself.