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Why Am I an Outdoors Person?

Seems like I’ve always been. My earliest memories are roaming around in the East Texas woods, building forts, playing hide-and-seek, catching frogs and snakes. As a teenager on the Gulf Coast, I lived to prowl the coast and bays, fishing and exploring.

Today, often with good reason, parents are loath to let their youngsters out of their sight, much less roaming out in the woods and wilds. That’s a big loss of early bonding with Nature.

Ben & Matt looking for "whitewater"
Ben & Matt looking for "whitewater"
©Clyde Nicely
"Being on this stretch of river again brings back memories. When Ben and Matt were young, in the summer we would have someone take us into Pittsburg, just the three of us. I remember one time we took along an IK. They wanted to run it together and they dumped it in a little rapid. It scared them a bit but it was a good lesson in respecting the river. One of them, I think it was Matt, lost his cap in the spill. Later that day we found a cap on a beach; I’ve still got it in the ‘spare hat’ stash."

Outdoor pursuits, like boating, hiking and backpacking help me keep in shape. This compels me to do the weight training, calisthenics, and stretches that I hate to do and would endlessly put off if I didn’t have to do them to stay in shape for these outdoor pursuits!

"To do these 47 slow-water miles in three days (so I can have a layover day) I’ll have to row the whole way. That’s alright, I can row all day, trading off between forward and back strokes."

"I can still wear these wool pants I bought 35 years ago. They’re snugger, mind you, but I can still wear them. Damn moths."
The mouth of the mighty Salmon River
The mouth of the mighty Salmon River
©Clyde Nicely

The outdoors is a place of endless fascination and variety. You never know what you’ll see, hear, smell, feel. Wildlife observation, bird watching, learning the plants never grows old.

Fall colors at Cherry Creek
Fall colors at Cherry Creek
©Clyde Nicely
"No human tracks on the first camp’s beach. There are large and small deer tracks, must be a doe and fawn. Also coyote tracks and those of some smaller mammal – weasel, mink?"

"The kingfishers and blue herons are still fishing, but the canyon wrens have left for the winter; I do miss their company."

"Just above Cherry Creek, I spot two bighorn sheep silhouetted against the sky, high above on a ridgeline. There has been some disease in this herd, it’s good to see them in this area."

There’s so much country out there to explore. An irresistible tug draws me to see what’s around the bend and up the trail. It’s impossible to see it all in one person’s lifetime.

"It’s my layover day. I’ve had a decent breakfast, made some excellent coffee with my AeroPress and read a bit in the memoir of a WWII German colonel. I climb high above the river to the summit. I find it’s just the shoulder of a summit, which when reached is, of course, a shoulder of several more summits. They’ll have to be climbed another day. I lie down in the sun, at the base of a rock outcrop. Likely no other human has ever set foot here. I doze, waking to the pungent odor of crushed yarrow."

Part of the experience is testing myself against the challenges Nature offers. I’m safety conscious, but any activity involves some risk. The trick is to know enough about my abilities and my equipment to push the limits safely. I don’t necessarily enjoy being outside my comfort zone, but it’s where I learn and I’m usually glad I went there.
Pittsburg Landing is 18 miles thataway
Pittsburg Landing is 18
miles thataway
©Clyde Nicely

Just a peaceful, easy feeling
Just a peaceful, easy feeling
©Clyde Nicely
"The waves on this stretch aren’t big, but I have to keep in mind that this little boat is much narrower than my E-150. Stuff I dumb-wallow through in the 150 can roll this puppy."

"Running solo definitely sharpens my focus. There’s no one right here to back me up and pick up the floaties. The plus side is I get to set my own pace, don’t have to agree on campsites or listen to snoring."

Others may say about the outdoor experience, “It fills my cup” or “I feel at home here.” For me, a spiritual renewal takes place when I take a trek outdoors. I feel the cares of my everyday world dissolve. Coping with that world leads me to block out a lot, to dampen the overload, to shut down some of the receptors. Outdoors my horizon expands, literally and figuratively.

"What is there that makes me feel happy and a tad smug when crawling out of a tent with a heavy rime of ice on the rainfly and shivering while trying to warm my hands over the heating coffee water? Is it a harkening back to an earlier time, an ‘I’m here in this beautiful country and they’re back there staring at four walls,’ I’m nuts, what? Something to think about."

"The sound of moving water soothes the soul. It’s why folks buy the tabletop water fountains and build garden waterfalls. Out here, gravity, not electricity, powers the sound."
LowerSalmon_flora - Bouquet outside the door, but no room service
Bouquet outside the door, but no room service
©Clyde Nicely

"Miles and miles of miles and miles. Out west, we’re so fortunate to have these large swaths of preserved land. When I see those ‘Wilderness, Land of No Use’ bumper stickers, I think ‘Man, have you ever floated down a wild river, marveled at the stars on a clear mountain night, laughed at the antics of a river otter, heard a wolf howl?"

So, why am I an outdoor person? Nature or Nurture? Excellent exercise, lure of far horizons, challenge, renewal? All of the above, something else entirely? It’s fun to think about, but in the end, it’s purely academic. I am an OP, glad of it and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Feel like sharing your thoughts? Drop me an email at editor@nrs.com.

Boat Often & Boat Safe,