Typically when someone asks me a question like this my response is a pretty generic 'because I love it' or 'I just love being outside'. While those sentiments are true, I feel like they leave me with a sense of disappointment in not being able to fully capture the reasons I choose to participate in activities that, on their surface, can be downright befuddling to people. I mean, why would you invest time off from work to carry a heavy pack far away from all the comforts of home, sleep on the ground, and deal with bugs and animals? When I think about the logistics and costs involved with a backpacking trip, kayak overnight, bikepacking adventure, or climbing a mountain it's no wonder some people think the whole idea is illogical. And yet, in spite of it all, we're out there putting one foot in front of the other to go find the most difficult place to poop we possible can (I joke about this, but I know several people who do not going backpacking for this very reason!).
All of that being said, we have here in this community a group of people who, for all our different outdoor activities, are bonded by a drive to get outside. What's your 'why'? What motivates you to keep going and getting outside? Can you help me answer this question in a way that adequately captures the essence of how awesome the outdoors is?
Here is a photo of me pushing two bikes up a huge hill on a bikepacking trip with my daughter. There was as much of this misery as there was actual riding so why do I look back on this trip with only fond memories?!
Downhill skiing is my favorite because of the thrill of it and I can constantly challenge myself to get better. More technical slopes, more refined technique, bigger jumps, tighter lines, etc. it is a challenge without an end! Plus hitting that rare powder day with friends is as close as it gets to heaven on earth. Like slicing those turns through a cloud. Who can honestly say they don't like cold smoke? Plus the beautiful landscapes in the winter, the lack of pesky bugs, and sunburn (usually).
I train all year and invest time and money for the ski season. I get as many others as I can involved to share in that joy. Crazy? Only from an outsiders perspective.
Yeah, that's how the saying goes, but I don't find it to be true. I would much rather be out with friends, even if our lines crisscross occasionally. Besides, who else is going to pull me out of the tree-well?
Call me religious, but I think I like these outdoor pursuits because it's what God made us for. When he created humans, he didn't put them in a building. When I'm out in the woods collecting fiddleheads or mushrooms; hiking up to an alpine lake; watching wildlife; etc, I'm merely taking a step back towards Eden. I'm doing what comes naturally. I'm doing what I was made for.
"What is that feeling when you're driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? - it's the too huge world vaulting us, and it's good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies."
It makes me happy. That sufficient.
If people ask as a criticism that's their problem. If they ask out of genuine interest which is more usual it's probably because they are looking for something themselves or maybe they are just trying to make conversation. For that the "why" doesn't matter as much as the how, where and what.
Of course the question is most asked by self reflective outdoor types trying to justify why they bought all that equipment or why they need to be away this weekend instead of painting the living room or whatever.
I think my outdoor activity found me, Karen and I were at J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, FL and we noticed Roseate Spoonbills. They were cool looking and we decided we should start keeping track of what birds we see. Appreciation of birds has also lead to butterflies, native bees, trees, and dragonflies. Always good to get outside and see what is out there.
Not really a "bird watcher" but we went for a hike the other day and we had great fun identifying what turned out to be a Northern Flicker. The CornellLab Merlin app is an excellent resource. On the same hike there was an Elk herd...its a reserve so that was not surprising but we did see them...probably around 30 in several groups. And we also saw a Grey Whale pod feeding off the point, and abundance of wild flowers and a number of other birds, insects and mammals all doing their thing. We were first on the trail and didn't see anyone until we were a fair way into our return.