Once upon a time, there was a rural boy who loved the outdoors… and urban life full of museums, cafes, and people of all colors, classes and Nationalities. Fast forward decades later across a couple careers, a heart attack and mountains of bad choices he did a funny thing… he went back outdoors.
I did a lot of traveling last year. I also bought a tent and a sleeping bag and started camping again. Now I grant you, it was gay camping, this awesome place in Ohio called Freedom Valley, as I thought it would be a safer, more familiar, entry point for me. Especially these days in Trump’s, well-armed, America. But it was camping none the less. And it was fun.
I made a lot of rookie mistakes. My sleeping bag was this monstrous blue aberration for one. It was like a gay bear, large, fuzzy, proud and resistant to compacting to a smaller size. Then there was my foray to Shawnee State Forest at the end of the fall season in 2017. With all my stuff. In my big ass backpack which weighed a ton. I still can’t use a compass unless it’s the one on my phone called Google Maps. Without a water filter. It wasn’t pretty. But it was still fun in that I learned a lot… and one of the artifacts of that trip is a short video of my campfire. I can’t remember how many times I have played that during various low points through the winter.
Honestly, my motivation was to dust off my sorely neglected outdoor skills. Sleep under the stars. Start a campfire. Have some beers with my brothers while talking about our lives.
A funny thing happened in the process. I found that I really enjoyed that kind of lifestyle. I liked it enough to pair it with hiking and backpacking. That leap was part of a way for me to combat this constant anxiety that I was gifted after having a heart attack in 2015. A way for me to challenge myself to live more fully in the moment. Learn how to realize when I was worrying about things I could not control and then let it go in favor of living my life. Some of us live life in a calm state of balance. That’s not me. Every day is a struggle to remind myself to triangulate my inner dialogue. Which reminds me of my immediate need to learn how to navigate, like with a compass, CPR, and first aid before heading out to Washington in September for a 50-mile hike through the Olympics with my best friend Doug. But that’s all part of the adventure I want to take I suppose. Life is a journey.
I guess that’s what people mean when they say that a significant health challenge is not all take. Sometimes it leaves us with gifts. Mine has been sleeping outdoors with new friends around campfires. Starlight falling all around like snow.
And, of course, lighter hiking gear, which is the subject of my next post on how and what I selected for my outdoor kit.