Being on the trail is physically taxing, whether traveling by canoe, hiking or snowshoeing. Once it isn’t, the magic we as human beings find in the outdoors starts to fade away. I wrote most of this essay sitting at a remote campsite in the North Maine woods that we drive into for solos. We do this in case of any emergency while students are out on their own, but as I sit here reflecting on the difference between our most recent allagash expedition and essentially car camping some things become apparent.
When out on multiple day trips my body gets weary, and I become more efficient at resting and more appreciative of it. On these solos, Tim and I are sitting in the same spot for four days, reading, recharging from the course and talking about the next ones. It’s a good relaxing time for us, but it’s hard not to crave the sense of achievement that comes from putting in a fifteen mile day. I recently started re-reading “the body” by Stephen King, which is the basis for the film “stand by me”. In it I discovered a line that I think anyone who has been on a multiple week unsupported trip will understand.
“My body felt warm, exercised, at peace with itself. Nothing in it was working crossgrain to anything else. I was alive and glad to be. Everything seemed to stand out with a special dearness, and although I never could have said that out loud I didn’t think it mattered—maybe that sense of dearness was something I wanted just for myself.”
Feelings like that are why expeditions will always be such a large part of the experience at SOTF and Jack mountain. It’s what I believe people yearn for when they look at pictures of wild places on social media, or in books. It isn’t so much about the place itself, but about the feeling of having worked to get there.
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….and as I age….I get more efficient at resting. It also can be said about the amount of open fresh air you consume on those 15 mile days vs. resting and recharging. I don’t get the same kind of muscle fatigue (burn, pump, whatever you want to call it) lifting weights in a gym as I do hiking the hills, quartering firewood, or battling a side wind in a canoe on open water. Perhaps it is “seeing” the results in real time, that feeling of accomplishment that gives me a dopamine dump and lets me rest easy in a state of reflection…..