Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Backdoor Wild

On a weekend camping trip 1.5 hours from our house
I’ve been reading a bit of Alastair Humphreys’ wonderful blog today, and thinking about wildness.

Humphries is a professional adventurer with all kinds of major expeditions under his belt, including cycling around the world and sailing solo across the Atlantic. After writing and talking about these for a few years, he realized that most of the people who loved his work never got to do the grand adventures he specialized in. So he changed career directions, and started undertaking what he calls microadventures: small escapes not far from where you live. They don’t cost much, don’t require much time off, and are scalable to one’s skills and fitness. He says this idea has really taken off with his readers.

After perusing his thoughts this morning, I did a few hours of work, changed, and rode off to the local trail I use for quick weekday morning rides. It’s just a mile or two from my door. I adore this trail, almost too much. Sometimes I have to avoid riding it for a week or two, because I get tired of it. I know where every rock and root is. Today was my first time back after such a break.

It was a sunny, humid day, but not overbearing; just enough to create that deep summer feeling. I was sore and tired from recent hard rides, so I decided to take it easy up the climbs. Moving slower and breathing easier, I was able to notice that the light is changing as we move into August, becoming more stark and silvery, a little taste of the amazing autumn light in New England. Ferns were dark green, lush, and thick throughout the lower, parkland portions of the reservation.

At the top of the trail, resisting the thought that I “should” pedal through and start the descent right away (the tough-guy thing to do), I dismounted, leaned the bike against a tree, and took a few minutes to open my senses and take in what Momma Nature had laid out for me this morning. A woodpecker was taking single, isolated whacks at a tree not too far away. Odd—they’re usually fast as jackhammers. The water in the vernal pool far below the trail was scant, dark with tannins, and green with seepage from soaked vegetation. Late summer was showing off everywhere I looked.

I asked myself, as I took in the deep colors and soft sounds, how much farther away from civilization I’d need to be to feel satisfied at that moment. The answer, at that moment, was “I’m satisfied here and now.”

Wild is where you find it. In the right frame of mind, I’ve found it in a vestpocket park in Manhattan. Don’t get me wrong; all kinds of great benefits come from creating a novel-length packing list and launching off to parts untouched by humans. But many of those boons can be had, in smaller but much more frequent doses, a mile or two from my house.

Maybe yours, too.
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