Yesterday while I was out bushwhacking and getting buffeted by high winds and snow pellets, I realized I am an explorer. Not in the sense of a National Geographic explorer finding untrammelled terraine, or someone planting a flag somewhere (that’s all been done). I’m an explorer of my local environs, my extended backyard. And that’s what makes me utterly happy, what makes my life worth living.
I love getting off the trail. Trails are wonderful and useful and perfect for traveling from Point A to Point B, and for keeping masses of people from degrading sensitive areas. But what I love most is heading away from the trail, finding out what’s over there, on the other side of the ridge. Yesterday when I went out on one of my favorite local trails that’s what I did. One of my motivations was to get out of the wind, but after awhile I realized I was so much happier wandering than when I was just tramping up the trail.
If I hadn’t gone bushwhacking I wouldn’t have seen this great rock outcropping
nor seen these amazing rocks.
Getting away from the trail means you’re now on loose footing, stumbling over roots and catching your toes in holes. It’s not as safe, but that’s the whole point. It forces you to think, be more deliberate in placing your feet, plan your next step and makes you use other muscles as you leap, balance and waltz (fumble?) your way through the landscape.
I had a glorious time walking through this gully under rock ledges, around grasses that somehow find enough water to survive, seeing places where animals have gone before. Can’t you just picture the first people through here, utilizing the ledges and caves, finding sustenance and protection? My imagination went just a tad crazy. Of course it helped that I was the only person out and about. It was about 20 degrees with a sharp wind and just beginning to snow. I definitely had the place to myself.
This to me is what being outside means. I’d much rather explore, wander, discover, than hike a certain number of miles. I want to learn more about where I’m at than get to some far off place. I want to experience an area, spend the time to get to know it, watch how it changes through the seasons, learn its secrets.
If I’d been on the trail I wouldn’t have seen this woodrat nest.
Or this rodent highway.
This is life. Getting off the path. Finding your own way. Seeking new adventures. Instead of thinking, “What if I fall, or trip on a rock if I venture off the path? What if I get hurt or lost?” we should be thinking, “What if I have a marvelous time? What if I see incredible things? What if I learn something new?”
Let’s give ourselves permission to think positive, not negative outcomes. Let’s be explorers and do something different.
Let’s seek, learn and discover something new, even if it’s in your backyard.
Grab a buddy and become an explorer.
“I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” – John Muir