Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Great Outdoors

My siblings and I were campers before we could walk.  We've been canoeing, hiking and backpacking as long as I can remember.  Dad was a huge fan of outdoor sports of all kinds and wanted to make sure that the rest of the family had the opportunity to experience those things as early as possible.  Some of my earliest childhood memories are camping with family.  Just about every summer early on, we'd pack up the car, driving west as a family.  I've been lucky enough to visit many, many national parks.  Despite being packed in the back seat of the car with two girls for painfully long drives, it's the parks that I remember most.

At the age of eight, I started spending my summers at Camp Horseshoe for Boys.  Eight weeks of living in cabins without electricity in the north woods of Wisconsin.  Other than the psychological damage of living in close quarters with other boys for eight weeks (they'll gang up to find the weakest target and do their best to make that person's life miserable), it left me with some amazing memories and unbelievable experiences.  The seven-day canoeing trip down the Namekagon River (affectionately known as the "Marathon".  I think that I still have the voyageur hat that all who completed the trip received), hiking through the Porcupine Mountains, and taking a two-week canoeing trip through the boundary waters are all experiences that I'll never forget.

As I've gotten older and out on my own, I've found myself getting a bit more settled in suburban life.  It's good--I enjoy it for the most part.  Everything is convenient and easy to get to.  I can fall into a comfortable routine.  As easy as it was, I still found myself a little bit....unsettled. 

A couple years ago, I decided to take myself camping along the north shore of Lake Superior.  And it reminded me about what I love about the great outdoors.  This is one of my favorite pictures from the trip.  It's an image from Gooseberry Falls State park.  It just so happened that this view was a 30-second walk from my campground.  I got to this point and just sat and overlooked Lake Superior for a while and felt calmer and more at peace than I had in quite some time.  It was a phenomenal reminder of the energizing power of nature.  But it was admittedly a very lonely experience, too.  Much as I loved it, I could only take a few days of the time by myself before it was time to go home. 

The following summer, my parents went camping with me at Tettagouche State Park, also along the North Shore of Lake Superior.  It was a longer trip this time around since I had company.  And it was another phenomenal refresher of my spirit.

The last few years, my summers have gotten significantly busier with my theater opportunities.  I'm immensely grateful for doing these shows as it's completely energizing in a completely different way.  But I missed out on my summer camping trips.  Last fall, I decided to do more poking around a little bit closer to home, looking for ways to reconnect with nature on my own in a way that's a little susceptible to loneliness.  I've been amazed at just how many beautiful places there are so close to suburbia.  Last fall, I visited ten regional or state parks.  Just hiking for a couple hours, enjoying the sights and sounds (and silences) of getting away for a little while, then appreciating coming back home.  I stayed home for the winter, but this week I started my spring exploration of new and interesting places to commune with the great outdoors. 

Theater will be a major part of my summer again this year, but I'm going to remind myself to get away and hike for a while when I can.  It's the type of energizing activity that takes me back to some of the earliest experiences I can remember in my life, and there's nothing like it.


  1. All the places look so beautiful. I love getting away from the city to spend some time surrounded by nature. I'm like you in that I find it both calming and energizing.

    I'm jealous of the camping though. I've still never been. :-(

  2. Beautiful pictures! We are taking the three boys camping for the first time this weekend. I know it will be special, but also a lot of work! A little worried!

  3. I wish you luck taking the boys out camping. I know it'll be a handful, but my parents survived taking three of us out camping often when we were growing up and I think we're better for it. You'll do great!