Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Marmots, Being Outside, and Why Stick Wars are a Bad Idea

"...the 21st Century American man spends an estimated 90% of his time sealed off from nature - in an office, at a desk, in his house, behind the wheel, on the couch watching TV, or in bed sleeping in air that's often artificially cooled and dehumidified.
...we need to get out more."

When I was growing up, my parents insisted that we were outside for as long as the sun was up.  This rule was to be adhered to, even during vacation, summer breaks, and weekends.

At the time, my Dad was working construction, repairing re-po houses in order for the banks to put them back up for sale.  His hours were heavily dependent on factors outside of his control, including the availability of materials, distance of the site from home, and the complexity of the job itself.  As such, Bryan and I never knew when he would getting home on any given day.  Woe to he who was caught in the house when he got home if the sun was still up.

We got pretty creative at finding things to do.  Bryan dug and built dirt jumps to take his BMX bike on while I played a lot of basketball in our driveway.  We also had epic wars involving acorns as projectiles, and the battles would span our entire neighborhood.  Long sticks stuck in our belt scabbards were our swords, used primarily for settling duels and maintaining justice and order in our kingdom.  This was considered a good idea until our friend Scott fell off his horse (a bike) with the stick stuck in his belt loop, nearly impaling himself on it.  By decree of all the neighborhood parents, we were instantly demoted from cavalry down to infantry over the incident.

Now an adult (in age if not maturity-level), I spend most of my time indoors.  I suppose a lot of it is unavoidable when one considers what a "job" looks like in this day and age.  Don't get me wrong, I am not idealizing the pre-internet days as some golden era, but if our generation spends a lot of time inside, it makes you wonder for the next one.  Thanks to my parent's insistence, I had this great head-start on an appreciation for the outdoors, and still, I spend most of my day in front of a computer screen.  For kids who grew up with the internet from day 1, I wonder if they will even realize that something is missing. 

"On a deep, atavistic level, we know where we belong.  And it's not at a desk."

Eight days from now, I will set out with some close friends for Kings National Park in the Eastern Sierras.  We will start in the town of Bishop, picking up the South Lake trail, and cross over Bishop Pass (11,960 feet) into the isolated Dusy Basin.  We will set up a base camp at one of the many nameless lakes in the area, and set out on day hikes and adventures from there for a few days. 

I can't emphasize enough how badly I need this break from noise, computers, traffic and city.  While it doesn't happen immediately, you slow way down within a few days on backwoods trails.  There are no electronic beeps or reminders, you get back to a natural cycle of sleeping and waking with the rising and falling of the sun, and have more time to think and consider, as opposed to responding and reacting. 

Maybe we'll bring back a pet marmot.

* Note - all quotes are from this month's Men's Health article "Wild Side."

How about you?  Any favorite backpacking routes or trails that I should add to the list?

If you liked this post, you may enjoy:

Moose Drool and Ear-Fuckery
A Misguided Ascent & Summit of Pyramid Peak
Salamander Orgies, Waterfalls, and Powerful Insight into the Women-folk


Juliana said...

i rode my dog as a horse. we hid behind coffee trees and fought battles against imaginary white people. like martin and bryan schatz.

Juliana said...

i rode my dog as a horse. we hid behind coffee trees and ambushed imaginary white people. like martin and bryan schatz.

linda said...

i think we're starting to see the effects of our generation and the ratio of inside time vs. outside time with our obesity rate. i remember when recess was a good 30-45 minutes and now you're lucky to get ten minutes and in its place is AC and computer lab free time.

Hansoul Kim said...

i have started to hike again. which means, i have started again to immerse myself in the natural existence of Life.

i'm lovin' it.

Hansoul Kim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michelle... said...

I haven't made any trips yet this year, but I'm hoping to do a lot later this summer and fall if my weekends don't fill up with other activities. Fall's the best and most beautiful time for hiking around here anyway.

Martin said...

Ju - Bryan and I are not imaginary white people. We are really real white people.

Linda - sad but true.

Hands Are Full - Nice. Where shall we hike then? Toganga?

Michelle - I'd like to do some late season camping/hiking this year too. I really want to get out to Death Valley in late fall or early winter.

Hansoul Kim said...

@schatz attacks - where the heck is TOGANGA.

Annabelle said...

Ironically, I've found that since moving to NYC I'm outside more than I've ever been in my entire life.

When I lived in Boston, LA, and Arizona, I was in my car or in my air-conditioned/heated room holed up on the computer and being lame. There was no reason to go outside....what exactly was one supposed to DO there?

Now I use the outdoors for everything... I blog in Bryant Park, I read on the Hudson River, I head to the beach for vacation, and I walk EVERYWHERE. I love that people are constantly using the outdoor space as THEIR space. It's really nice.

We'll talk about this massive heat wave and air conditioning crisis another time.

Anonymous said...

Are you a pimp or something? The only people that comment on your blog are girls!! LOL. *High five* Anyway, back to the post.

I have to echo Annabelle. Ever since I moved to Boston, I walk everywhere and I am always outside. When I lived in NM, I drove everywhere and was never outside unless it was in the parking lot between my car and the mall. Now I prefer to walk, and almost nothing seems too far to walk to. Needless to say, I think I am healthier and happier because of it.

I really effin' love A/C tho, so I don't see myself becoming a tree hugger anytime soon.

Trouble.Thinks said...

I miss those days as a child, being outside all the time! Going from that, to this though really makes you appreciate the outdoors all that much more when you do get out, eh?! Freedom! As for hiking there are tons of incredible trails up here in the great white north...The West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island (77km of pure wilderness) The Rockies have some sweeeeeeeet ones as well...Banff & Jasper.

Martin said...

Hands Are Full - I mean, TOPANGA!

Annabelle - I heard about your heat wave. Please send the sun back to California, kthbai.

Lily - Not a pimp. I think its just that only women blog (typically).

TT - I need to get to the Rockies. Really need to. Looks awesome.