Making time to live an adventurous life
Time is a teasing seductress.
It dances close and coos tantalizing, half-heard whispers one moment, then giggles silkily while twirling away, just beyond reach, the next. It's here and there, everywhere and nowhere, a fickle wind, a warm, moist breath on the back of your neck that disappears when you turn to embrace it.
It spawns dreams but devours them, too.
Just before the holidays a friend and I spent some time talking. A few years older than me, he lamented that, in 2018 and like most of the years before, he'd spent less time outdoors doing things like fishing, hunting, paddling and cycling than he hoped.
He's a busy, busy man. When he's not working, he tends meticulously to his house, his yard, his vehicles.
It's not my place to say that's wrong.
But I gently noted that, even if things go as well as we can hope, we've got fewer years in front of us than behind us. And they won't be the easy ones, particularly on the far end. Age and, especially in his case, the ravages of decades of physical labor on a small frame will see to that.
So the time to go adventuring is now.
Still, I'm not sure that he will. Many don't.
Grand Canyon National Park is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, on Feb. 26, to be exact. It's not the oldest national park — it doesn't even make the top 10 — but it is the second-most visited, receiving more than six million visitors a year.
That's a lot.
But how many people in the last century said they were going to go there and never did before they passed on from this world? How many still walking the planet say they want to get there, but never will?
More than six million a year, I'll bet.
That's understandable. Finances, family, work, commitments — in short, life — are formidable roadblocks.
And there's always next week, next month, next year, it seems. Time's siren song is all about promises of tomorrows.
None of us is guaranteed those, though. So it's right now, at the very next opportunity, we should be heading outdoors.
Yes, life will get in the way on occasion. Plans will have to be rearranged or changed. Sacrifices will have to be made. That's just the way it is.
But there are some things you can do to keep your enthusiasm high and your priorities right when it comes to heading for forests and fields and water and wilds.
Here are 10 ideas for the New Year.
Go somewhere new. You need not visit the Grand Canyon, necessarily. But there are literally thousands of parcels of public land across the country, containing hundreds of millions of acres, waiting to be explored. Do some research and identify state parks, national forests, seashores or grasslands you'd like to see, based on their activities, scenery or culture. Then go.
Learn a new skill. If you're a lifelong trout fisherman who always casts spinners, pick up a fly rod and learn to use it. If you normally paddle a canoe, try a kayak or even a stand up paddleboard. Challenge yourself somehow so the old becomes new again.
Expand your species list. OK, so you may be a died-in-the-wool archery deer hunter. But maybe leave the bow at home one time to hunt with a flintlock. Or forget deer completely for a day to chase pheasants or squirrels. Or, if you're a bass fisherman, try sitting on the bank one night to feel the tug of a 10-pound channel cat.
Take it up a notch. Are you a day hiker? Buy or borrow a backpack and do an overnighter. If you're a car camper who typically goes to developed campgrounds, try dispersed camping in a national forest, where you essentially set up at a wide spot in the road (even if that still requires a permit). In any case, go beyond where you've gone before.
Learn more. Pack a field guide or two, and the next time you hike or bike or otherwise explore, spend some time figuring out just what those trees and plants and birds around you really are. You may be surprised by the variety, not all of it native.
Serve as a mentor. You don't have to be Daniel or Danielle Boone to take a newcomer outdoors. Pick a friend, a coworker or a child and introduce them to what you know, however much or little that is. You might just spark a lifelong passion in them. You'll almost certainly get as much from it as they do.
Serve as an apprentice. You're never too old to learn. That's what they say, right? Sometimes we get stuck in ruts, though, and do the same things in the same places over and over. Hook up with a hiking club, a mushroom club, a sportsmen's group or even just a new individual and learn from their experiences.
Share more. It's relatively easy these days to shoot photos or videos, what with the capabilities of even the least expensive cameras, not to mention smartphones. Using them forces you to slow down and pay attention to nature's details, which can lead to new discoveries even in familiar corners. But beyond that, you can share your artistic creations with friends or even on social media, which can lead to new friendships.
Get involved. If there's a particular park you enjoy or a species of wildlife, help them out. Maybe spend a little time picking up trash or otherwise caring for the land and its creatures. You can do it alone or join a park Friends group, trail-care crew or habitat team and lend your efforts to a bigger cause.
Keep a journal. Many outdoor journals begin as dry records of achievements. They list parks visited, game harvested, fish caught, miles hiked or paddled and the like. But time spent outdoors is perfect for reflecting, for just sitting and being and thinking. So don't be surprised if, over time, your journal becomes an opus to who you are, what you enjoy and why.
It's a new year, and time is tiptoeing around again, as is its flirty way, always close yet always beyond our grasp.
This year, reel it in. Fill your calendar with adventure. There are only so many tomorrows.