“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread.”
Yesterday I had the opportunity to take the boys for a hike at Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountain National park. My goal was to get them outside for some good exercise and expose them to something new and different. I spoke to the park ranger, who suggested an easy trail that wouldn’t overwhelm short legs but would give plenty to see and experience along the way, and we set out on our adventure.
We discovered remarkable rocks, amazing sticks, daddy long legs, turkey vultures, and weird bugs along the way. We discussed different plants and the challenges of walking on trails with lots of roots and rocks. Then, at the mid-point of our hike, we “discovered” a two-hundred-year-old cabin built entirely by hand that blew the boy’s minds. (Although the giant chocolate chip cookies I surprised them with might have been the discovery that genuinely excited them.)
A simple three-mile hike “for the boys” turned into a grand adventure and a reconnection with nature for me.
Three things I learned or was reminded of yesterday.
- There is incredible value to being “disconnected,” especially in today’s hyperconnected world. My mobile phone didn’t work for about four to five hours, and for that brief time, no distractions were pulling away from the incredible world around us. It amazed me how quickly I could put the phone aside when I knew it wasn’t going to work. There was no draw to check emails, texts, or other messages. This disconnection allowed me to be present in each moment without fear of “missing out.” Instead, I didn’t miss out on what was going on right there in the moment.
- Being outside in nature is a constant exercise in “new” things. I have been in love with the outdoors my entire life. ‘Ranger Rick,’ ‘National Geographic,’ ‘Sports Afield,’ and ‘Outdoor Life’ were some of my favorite readings as a young boy. However, no matter how much you have read or seen, there is always something new to experience or do. Nature is wild and dynamic; it is never the same experience twice. I was reminded of this as I answered constant questions and explained different plants, scat signs, and other things you can only find when you get out in the woods. It was new for the boys and new for me.
- Being outside and seeing the grandness of the “wilderness” (as it were…) is a phenomenal way to recharge the batteries and reconnect with our heritage as a species. Humans are not built to live in concrete boxes, breathing sterile air in temperature-controlled environments with no discomforts other than self-imposed mental stressors. We are made to be part of nature, to be challenged by nature, and to feel alive because of nature.
This was supposed to be a trip for the boys, but it ended up being for me. ‘Wilderness’ is essential for the soul, just as water and bread are vital for the body.