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DAN SIMMONS: Discover natural adventures during forced slowdown

As I sit here in isolation, I have been thinking of what it means to the hunter, fisher or people interested in the outdoor experience and found a positive thought on isolation. Outdoor folks have always valued that quiet solitary experience, and now is a good time to pass it on.

The silver lining in the virus quarantine is having time in isolation with the family. That doesn’t equate to sitting at home watching soap operas and playing video games. It’s the opportunity to do what every hunter, fisherman and outdoor enthusiast has always said they wanted, “to have more time to spend on the mountain, at the lake or exploring the vast deserts and woodlands,” but not at crowded parks and campsites.

It is the time for pre-season scouting for hunters and time to go through that gear that’s hiding in the closets and the garage that all outdoor people have. It’s also time to apply for those coveted hunting tags and getting in shape with the whole family participating. It’s time for solitary camping and backpacking while others are hibernating at home.

I’m doing more backpacking off the beaten paths this year as most folks stay pretty close to roads, and most wildlife stay as far away from them as they can. My goal is to feel closer to our natural heritage and that means, yes, also leaving the quads behind.

Packing in was common in the fifties, sixties and the beginning of the seventies when new equipment and materials came on the market. We saw ingeniously designed small, lightweight tents, compact stoves, cooking utensils, and freeze-dried foods, that actually tasted good.

This was the age of exploration: NASA, the first man on the moon, romantic stories of discovery in Mexico and Central America. It was the height of hunting activity, not only here but in the far north and Africa, too. Our young people were found around the world, packs on their backs and dreams in their eyes. Hunting trips of two to three or more weeks were the norm. Now is that chance to recapture that experience if only for a few days, but longer is better as it takes a few days to regain that natural rhythm.

We seem to have taken a break from isolated hiking and camping excursions during the eighties and nineties, with a greater emphasis on career, achieving financial success, accumulating “things,” and having the “good life.” This led to an emphasis on motorhomes and expensive guided trips for “record book” trophies, trips of shorter duration, long weekends and mid-week getaways.

We’ve also seen those adventurous young folks of the sixties and seventies get a little older, a little grayer, and a little nostalgic for that slower-paced life style. They’ve begun to pick up their backpacks, or extraordinary newer, lighter ones, and once again look for “that road less traveled.” Some call it “getting a life.”

There is no better time than now to regain that freedom and introduce your family, kids and grandkids to a more personal relationship with the natural world and the quiet wonders it holds.

This is even easier now with a new generation of technological advances in materials and equipment that has spurred another resurgence of backpacking while many young people are again looking for an experience other than the urban rat race and occupation.

Volunteerism and adventurism has also seen resurgence. Third-world assistance programs are popular, outdoor and camping stores are doing well, as is interest in hunting, fishing and exploring. There are still lots of undiscovered corners of the world waiting for us and they all start at our back door.

Observing wildlife and fishing in pristine lakes and streams waits for those hearty enough, or determined enough, to shoulder a backpack and walk rather than motor in. So during these trying times leave the quad at home, toss the cell phone, and leave civilization behind; pick up that old pack, or get a newer lighter one, and either discover or re-discover life’s natural adventures. This may take a little getting used to, but you’ll find after the second or third day that you’re part of the natural world and don’t have to compete with or endure it.

Try it during this forced slowdown; you’ll see, and feel, more while finding new undiscovered “secret places.”

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