We all have it, that small spark buried deep inside us that yearns for the outdoors. Some of us have all but extinguished it, the primal connection that humankind has had to wilderness and wide open spaces. Most of us don’t even feel it’s heat anymore and it’s been lost in the chaos of everyday, modern life. But, in a few of us, that spark glows bright, every now and then fanned into flames.
I’m one of those.
I can’t really explain why I need wilderness, but I do. It’s not always easy to find in our neck of the woods. As much as we like to think we’re country, we really aren’t so much. At best, we straddle with one foot in the suburbs and one in rural patches, but not much really wild country exists anymore in our parts. The best way I can describe the longing for being in wilderness areas is like an itch that has to be scratched. It’s an itch that can’t be satisfied by hunting in a treestand on a 50 acre farm or camping in at a state park or dunking worms in a pond.
I’ve been fortunate over the years to experience some big country and wild areas. I’ve hunted the Manistee National Forest in northern Michigan and the Mark Twain in Missouri. I’ve had the pleasure of being in 1000’s of acres of brushy, scrub in south Texas and hunted caribou in the upper reaches of Quebec, just a short hop from the arctic circle and have been privileged to fish and hike on Chichagof Island in Alaska within mere feet of brown bears.
True wild places, big timber, thousands upon thousands of acres. The sorts of places where you hike in and quite literally might not hike back out. Places that make you feel small, insignificant. The kinds of places that make you tingle with life. Places with no noise, no light pollution, no cars rumbling down the road or dogs barking the next ridge over. Places where the night sky is dark, almost purple, strewn with more stars than humanly possible to count. The kind of places that no matter where you turn, whatever vista you see, you know that the hand of God was in play.
Places that the scenery just didn’t happen by accident, evolution or a big bang….
If I had the means, I’d find my way to wild places more often than I do, but I feel blessed to be able to make a pilgrimage every few years. This year it will be to the San Juan range of the Colorado Rockies to hunt elk with one of my best friends. A part of the country I’ve never seen. High country, thin air, alpine forest and valleys, a wild place. I can barely contain myself.
It’s trips like these that kindle that internal fire, that connection to my primitive past. A time when we were part of the natural world and not just casual observers and occasional visitors.
Statistically speaking, I’m on the slow downhill slide. I have more years behind me than I have ahead of me. I live a solidly middle class existence, but I do more than just exist. I’ll always find a way to make time and money to feed that flame and to find a new wild place to go. It’s part of who I am and I bet that if you dig deep enough, it’s part of who you are too, you just need to stoke that spark and find it.
I believe it was Abraham Lincoln that once said “It’s not the years in your life, it’s the life in your years”
As long as I am physically able and can scrape together some funds here and there, I’ll continue to add life to my time in the form of wilderness and adventure. My hope is that you folks find your spark and do the same.
– David Hewitt