The Path Less Traveled #001 – You Are (Not) Alone
Andrew D 02.01.21
Welcome to our recurring series of “The Path Less Traveled.” In this series, we want to take you along for our exploits out in the wilderness while hiking, camping, exploring, and general adventuring. This will include our small daily victories, foibles, tips, tricks, and reviews of gear we authentically appreciate and frequently utilize. While a well-worn trail can often be the pathway to a leisurely day, the paths less traveled can often spur on some of the greatest memories, misadventures, and fun we could imagine. Join us in the Comments as we share our travels and hopefully we can all come together for a greater appreciation of the outdoors.
The Dominant Species
I once contemplated on a hike “Compared to all other creatures in the woods, few cast an eye to the future beyond concepts of hunger and shelter.” This thought came as I was wearily slinking out of my tent and digging through my pack to find utensils to eat my morning oatmeal. “Damn, how am I going to eat this and the chili for lunch?” Scrolling back through my mental packing plans, I swore I had at least one utensil packed. Humans in general have the ability to veer our mind’s eye into the past as well as toward what we believe the future will be like. This can be for better or worse.
Going out into the woods is a way to become closer and more familiar with your own strengths and weaknesses, as well as leave the 9 to 5 behind, at least in physical presence. Some may seek the thrill of finding something new; whether that be discovering views that will look great for “The Gram” or just to get away from something… The woods allow us an opportunity to defer work, pesky family members, or the mundane responsibilities of life. When we trek toward the road untaken, one can ask – “Are we truly alone?”
Alas, we are not as blessed as Robert Burns’ wee mouse whose modus operandi was the present, the here and now. In the modern day, your phone is going to be able to reach you 97% of anywhere in the US (according to [INSERT MAJOR CELL CARRIER]’s commercials). Many will see this as an upside to the wonders of technology; others may see it as an inhibition to their sense of freedom or “getting away“. Somehow we can easily forget about a piece of gear to put in our bag when packing for a weekend trip, but we have a harder time letting go of our obligations; even those which have no bearing on our here and now. With these thoughts, you are not alone.
Your Gear is Your Friend
Focusing on ounces or grams when packing for a weekend trip is vital for me when covering 15-30 miles over two days of hiking and camping. Throughout the years, I’ve purchased a few pieces of hiking/camping gear that were specifically purposed to reduce the weight of my bag; I have also crafted some of my own doo-dads to make life more comfortable on the trail or in the woods to prevent incurring the stresses of a heavy pack. Modern materials and a demanding following of outdoorsmen has led us to having gear easily, readily, and inexpensively available to us that would have been seen as some of the “Gucci” gear that eccentric millionaires used or dreamt of when summiting the Himalayas or navigating down the Amazon river thirty years ago. Even fifteen years ago, I never would have thought that double wall tents weighing less than 1000g could cost less than $300.
When out in the woods on the roads untaken we all rely on the variety of items and gear that goes on our backs. With a modern-busy life, we go out with the mindset of doing it to the best of our ability and not squandering time while doing so when a pack strap fails or sole comes off a shoe. (Time is as valuable as gold, as we all know). Time leads us heavily relying on our gear. Gear that we familiarize ourselves with, gear that does not hinder our desires, gear that we sometimes end up loving as much as that guinea pig we had in second grade. I have a few pieces of gear that have lasted longer than some people’s marriages, have likely seen more use than a teenager’s snapchat account and regularly trust my life with. When you believe in and rely on your gear, it becomes something you can trust like a true friend. Once again, out in the woods, whatever we brought is right by our side, we are not alone.
When You Want To Feel Alone
Whether you’re setting out on an afternoon hike, weekend outing to a state park with friends, or planning on seeing if that decommissioned railroad line goes anywhere interesting – do note that while you may be the only person (or people) present, you are not the only one relying on this location. Others may or may not find these spots, hike these same paths, or be a critter scurrying about looking for its next meal in these exact same spot. Be sure to follow a steadfast Leave No Trace philosophy and keep your locations as unmolested as possible by human hands.
The deer trail that brings you to a great bass fishing spot may be traveled by other two-legged mammals, and keeping it in a clean condition makes sure others can have that magical “secret spot” feeling that you do each time. Picking up that Styrofoam live bait container or the stray beer can that someone else left is not your fault or responsibility, but will lead to a more enjoyable environment that will remind us less of the towns and cities we live in and more of the wonder of Mother Nature we go out to seek. Our minds may silently nag us about our mortgages or the window frames that need repainting, unable to leave us alone. The reliance on whatever we bring can keep us comforted while hiking out miles or trying to get a tent set up during a gusty spring wind. As advanced creatures seeking the solitude of the outdoors, we are truly too connected to our own world to be alone… but with simple effort, we can keep the road not taken appearing as so.