What’s weird about the outdoors is while it never changes, the way that you ingest it is. And not just from year to year and season to season in the same place but from one phase of life to another. As a kid my family went on camping for several reasons: it was a tradition, it was cheap, it was accessible, and it was fun above all. Our extended family would come together at some campground or another, usually in the mountains, and my earliest memory of really camping was in the second grade when my family spent a full week in the Great Smoky Mountains. It was just as the leaves were starting to turn colors, and the wind had some bite in the air, and I was given run of the entire campground. While the feeling of freedom to an adult seems laughable, as an 8 year old convinced bears or mountain lions or hillbillies could snatch me while running around the campground, forcing me to defend myself with a scarily large knife that my parents saw fit to let me strap on my hip, it was thrilling. I remember my dad and aunt huddled under an umbrella for hours in a downpour to try and catch some trout and never getting a single bite. There was weather and danger, but most of all adventure. It was the highlight of an already great childhood.
Years passed, and my family started an outdoor store that I’ve discussed at length in more articles than I can count. But it changed how I felt about the outdoors; it wasn’t just a fun thing we did, it is how we made enough money to eat. It put a serious edge to how I approached camping, kayaking, rock climbing, and backpacking. It wasn’t enough to just go out in the woods, to laugh and build fires, I had to talk to people about how to most effectively enjoy the outdoors. Things like safety and redundancy now meant something other than carrying two large knives for fending off monsters; it meant things like first aid kits, and hypothermia, and always packing extra toilet paper. I helped lead kayaking and camping trips, had the opportunity to teach others, and even more opportunities to learn which prepared me for more things than just writing this article every month. It became my classroom, where I learned life skills that made most of who I am today.
After the store closed, the outdoors became something closer to what my experience was as a kid, but with the added benefit of being an escape as much as it was an adventure. An adventure is something you plunge into, charging ahead to experience the newness of something. An escape, by contrast, is like retreating forward. You are running away from something as much as you are running to. I began savoring out of the way and remote places more and more, taking trips with my wife to far-flung places to backpack and explore. Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Maine, New Hampshire, Washington, Oregon all were places I did my best to crawl inside of like a cave, making a temporary home to settle down and enjoy before going back to the normal rush of being a working adult who regularly put in 60+ hour weeks. Quiet mountaintops, and starlit meadows are where I heard that small still Voice who reminded me what is really important.
Now, at 28, the outdoors is changing again for me. I have 5 days of high adventure this month, and that will probably be it for the next year or so. There won’t be any epic backpacking trips for a while, nor flying west to go explore some hidden gem in the Rockies. At best, the most I expect for the rest of the summer will be taking trips to a solitary beach on Stumpy Pond, dubbed “Pregnancy Beach” by friends of ours who were there nearly every weekend last summer while his very pregnant wife found some relief from the heat by bobbing around in the surprisingly cool water. We’re planning on being there for much the same reason, as my wife is due at the end of September with our first child, a boy.
This starts a whole new cycle of adventure, learning, of escaping with what matters most. It also starts me researching a whole new set of gear….I’ve never had to worry about what child carrier works best for hiking before.
Amish in the sense that, at one point, my family helped others raise barns.
Now I build websites to help others build their businesses.