Hippy nonsense?

As an employee of IU Outdoor Adventures, I get to do lots of adventuring in the outdoors. Whether I’m climbing rocks or backpacking about, I often get to experience the challenging simplicity of the outside.

As another suburban white kid with an apparently large attention deficit, the outdoors have always provided an awesome way to release my overabundance of energy. When you go outside, all five of your senses come alive. Now, I’m not about to go on about the beauty of the sunset or the fragrance of a freaking lily here, but the point remains that inside, you breathe manufactured air and see only what’s within those four walls.

Outside, you can hear for miles, taste and smell everything around you and see all the way to the horizon (provided that, ya know, you’re in a good spot).

My most recent adventure was up to the Quetico provincial park in Canada, where after 22 hours of weary driving our group finally arrived on an island in the middle of Nym Lake, where our adventure began. Now I don’t know if I was delirious from taking the 1 to 4 a.m. driving shift or what, but when I got there, I thought we had found that little slice of heaven that cheap songwriters always drone on about.

From there, we traveled seven days through the park, enduring the hardships of sun, rain, very heavy canoes and, worst of all, the bugs. You don’t know bugs until you’ve seen this spot. We’re talking Amazon freaking rainforest here.

We’re talking “wish you could crawl to the middle of the planet and never see the light of day again before you hear another mosquito in your ear”-type bugs. Perhaps a bit over the top, but such is the imagery when you’re lying in a bog, balancing a canoe with one hand and vanquishing your millionth bug with the other.

But it wasn’t all bad. The Quetico is one of the last pristine wilderness areas left in North America. The water is spring-fed and so fresh and so clean you can drink it right out of the lake. But it’s not about the nature. I mean it is, but it’s more about what the nature brings out in people.

Now, before you stop reading and shake your head at another tree-hugger who learned to use Microsoft Word (who gave that hippie a computer?), just calm down. It’s not for me to try to awesomely construct some Muir or Thoreau “wannabe” quote and shove it down your reading throat.

When I’m in the city around other people all the time, I sometimes forget what it’s like to be myself. I begin to see myself through the eyes of others, through their judgments, their misconceptions and their comparisons. This is fine for a second. But after awhile, I always lose track of what the hell I’m up to. What was it that I was doing again? Why do I feel so sad about nothing in particular, and why am I so worked up about nothing? Oh yeah, it’s ’cause we are descendents of freaking monkeys!

I am not exactly what you’d call “evolutionarily advanced.” Mr. Skynyrd might call me a simple man. But I gotta get outside every now and then.

And now, as my paddling tan goes away and the last of my bug bites fade, I am left with nothing but sappy, sentimental memories, and I’m back in the office.
It’s cool, though. Only 360-some-odd days until next summer’s adventures begin!

­— mileonar@indiana.edu

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