Get Ready to Explore the Magic of the Outdoors
By Rick Mende
Research Director, IPFH
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of autumn.” - John Muir, Founder of the Sierra Club
If there is magic to be found in this world, I believe it is most surely going to be found in the outdoors. Don’t get me wrong – there is magic to be found in many places; but I believe we are more likely to find it while we’re hiking or camping. I have often pondered why this is. To this day I don’t know for sure, but I do have some insights.
Much of it has to do with getting back to our roots. Houses, buildings, streets, and all the trappings of civilization are relatively new in the history of mankind. In prehistoric times we used the “indoors” only for shelter from weather, and for safety from potential predators. So we are tied—physically and psychologically—to the outdoors from deep in our history as a species.
Related to this is the stress that civilization can produce: Traffic. Noise. Demanding schedules. Is it possible to be inspired by looking at concrete, or asphalt, or metal? Well, yes. But in my view, even the most beautiful, flowing, magnificent architectural structure pales beside the splendor of a mountain sunset, the depth and brilliance of a desert sky or the crashing waves of an ocean.
For me, Muir’s words ring deep and true when I contemplate the times I have spent outside. Nature’s peace is like no other. No religious structure can compare to nature’s “cathedral.” If I had been born in an earlier time, I might not have appreciated nature. For me, the contrast between civilization and nature is part of what makes me appreciate the outdoors so much. If I had lived outdoors my entire life, I probably would not appreciate it the way I do.
What’s more, if I had not become familiar with the many man-made resources and great equipment that allow me to go deep into the wilderness and still feel protected and secure, I probably would not see the outdoors as Muir saw it – as a friendly, beckoning place that cleanses the soul and refreshes the mind. From the pack that my gear goes into to the socks and footwear that protect my feet, I venture into the back country with the confidence that I will be prepared for whatever happens. Preparedness allays fears, and allows me to truly blend in with the country that I have chosen to explore.
The right gear and preparation allowed me to remain an active backpacker. The very first overnight trip I took was on a section of the Appalachian Trail. It rained for nearly two solid days. We had a short window of clear weather during which we prepared dinner, but the rest of the time it rained steadily. Had I not been prepared and well equipped, I would have been miserable, and probably would not have ventured back out on the trails again for a long time, if at all.
Leaving civilization and people behind and trekking into the wilderness is invigorating, and it feeds my soul. But without the right equipment, I wouldn’t have been able to do it. John Muir undoubtedly had some great experiences outdoors. But I’ll bet he got wet, cold and miserable more than a few times. I’ve been wet, cold and miserable too, but now a love for the outdoors is in my blood. And what allows me to put that love into action is on my back… and on my feet.
On the next page is a list of gear I take with me for multi-day trips.
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