"...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?
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