A Process of Exploration

Every great journey begins with some motivating factor.  Something new, beyond what you have already seen in your day to day life.  Most of us feel it at some point in our lives; that inner sense to wander to distant places, without regard for where the destination may eventually be.  Some write these feelings off, some dabble in them, while others fulfill them.  Where do you fit in the spectrum?

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You think packing a suitcase sucks?

Its a big, small world out there.  More places than you could count, and hundreds of ways of getting to each one.  Quaint mountain villages, lively boardwalks, bustling cities, empty beaches…we all have places in our heads we imagine existing somewhere. The question ultimately becomes, “where should I go, and how should I get there?”

Many people think of having to cross oceans to find new places and peoples to experience.  What most of us forget is that right under our noses, this very country contains numerous landscapes, climates, cultures and histories.    One could spend a lifetime or more experiencing what this land has to offer.

So we’ve narrowed it down, at least for myself, where the general destination is.  Conveniently, those old dudes with wigs and muskets left us with a system where being able to travel the country freely is held with high regard.  No passports, no customs checkpoints, and most importantly, no scumbag TSA agent groping my junk.

Why yes, dear Watson.  Roads.

For of hundreds of years people have been plopping paths down everywhere, to every corner you can think of.  Premium high speed highways, all clearly labeled for the unprepared, distracted, and usually quite irate motor vehicle operators.  Massive sprawls of suburban communities, where multiple lane roads sectioned off by stoplights neatly flush massive amounts of  impatient traffic to their choice of delicious artery clogging food.  Back country roads in the middle of nowhere, sitting there all day, slowly boiling away in the sun until the momentary relief of my cars shadow zips past across its surface.  All that road…unused 99% of the time.

It only takes one a few hours of traversing thick woods on foot to get an idea of how slow and rough travel can be without the modern infrastructure we grew up around.   Don’t ever forget that thirty minute drive we complain about used to be someones day trip 100 years ago.

Thank you modern society.  Its time for me to put your collective products to use.

I’m not here to see roads though, however grand the scope and scale may be.  It’s once I pull off the road that the fun starts.

The sights, the silence, the simplicity, the serenity; the back country is clearly my favorite place to be.  It only takes one a few minutes in the full grasp of nature to feel at peace with any troubles that may be plaguing them.  Much like the effect of a long, hot shower, thoughts and revelations slide forth smoothly.  In all this blissful thinking it’s easy to forget the perils that come with such beauty.  There’s no hospital to crawl to should you make a stupid mistake, let alone cell phone reception to call for help.  Preparation is key.

I have two sayings that dictate my life in the back country.

First– a monkey is only as useful as the tool in his hand.

Second– there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.

These two ideas lead to one principle.  Given a sound mind and body, you are ultimately limited by the gear available to you.  Learn to be clever with how you use your equipment, and be good at carrying it over distances.  Given the right combo of food/water/equipment/clothing, time spent in the back country can be nearly effortless.  It is 2013, you know?  We have solar power, gps, LED’s, self cooking food, and an entire backpacking industry pumping out top notch, lightweight equipment.  While still being definite things to know, we don’t have to waste time building shelters and braiding vines.  I have a tent and 550 cord for that.

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