Making the most of nature

Building yourself on the challenge of survival

Growing comfortable with civilized life is very easy to do. Modern conveniences allow us to cruise through each day far more effortlessly than previous generations ever could. Now that pa doesn’t have to go hunt for dinner and sis doesn’t have to go milk the cows each morning, life has become more centered on indoor environments. Basically, humans aren’t required to spend as much time outside as they once had to in order to survive.

One of the consequences of spending more time inside than outside while growing up is a lack of comfort and familiarity with nature. It always surprises me when I talk to people who say they have never in their life gone on a day hike, or ridden a horse, or swam in a lake; all activities I consider important. I fondly remember hiking along Oregon’s McKenzie River Trail, gawking at the massive flow of glacial water as it cascaded over Sahalie Falls. I’ll never forget shoeing my first horse at Camp Baldwin, or learning how to give her commands, especially “don’t eat every plant in sight, please!” It still makes me smile when I recall diving off of a 20-foot-tall pier into the Hood River Canal in Washington to begin the Camp Parsons swim test.

After finishing their education, most Americans are forced to enter a high-speed society that only further silences nature’s yearning to be discovered. Operating under the shelter of roofs and walls, the monotonous day-to-day routine people are forced into leaves them so exhausted at the end of the day that they prefer rest over any further physical activity.

My father is a victim of this plight, working long hours that leave him worn out and tired by nightfall every single weekday. But what is different about my dad is that even after a long, labor-intensive week, he is still eager to go hiking and camping on the weekends rather than rest at home, even if he knows he will be sore come Monday, because he understands the value in exploring the outdoors. This adventurous quality is far too rare nowadays.

During the break, I went snow camping at Willamette Pass in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains where I dug and slept in a snow cave under seven feet of the white stuff. You might be wondering why I would do something strange like that. Besides the practical survival lessons to be learned, I was inspired by the challenge to make something exciting and unusual, and most importantly, I wanted to leave my comfort zone. What I took from the experience more than made up for the work I had to put in to make the cave, because I had gained both skills and thrills in exchange for a few hours of digging.

It you are the sort of person whose vacations are spent relaxing on the beach, I challenge you to instead go on an adventure. Specifically, you can explore a forest, climb a mountain, skate across a frozen pond, or rappel down a cliff. Humans have a tendency to grow sedentary with age, falling into predictable patterns, and phasing the excitement out of their lives. The day will arrive when you can no longer experience and do the things you can now, so don’t wait. Seek out the challenges Earth has so generously provided us, and if you ever find yourself trapped in society’s unrelenting hold, slow down, take a deep breath, and escape.