A Celebration of Being Outside
For the majority of my childhood, I lived inside. I was a bookish kid who went to dance classes, swim team practices, school, and not much else. Later, I started to participate in sports like football, tennis, and track, but that's not exactly being outside, either. Nothing about those sports requires you to be outdoors.
I never appreciated really "being outside" until I was twenty-two years old. Two of my close friends - Aaron and Jeff - took me on an overnight camping and hiking trip to Giant Mountain in the Adirondacks, near Lake Placid, New York. They were both seasoned outdoorsmen and they showed me the ropes. It was the first time I was truly "outside."
They helped me buy equipment and shared some of their equipment with me. We applied insect repellent and ate foods that were closer to rations than a meal. I had boots that over the course of two days, actually got dirty. We boiled water to make lunch on a windy mountaintop. We were caught in the rain. We ventured far enough away from automobiles, that we couldn't hear road noise. We traded stories about the trail and about our lives. By the end, I was anointed a trail name - "Bucket List."
Experiencing nature is now one of the things in this world that brings me the most joy. Since my first trip with Aaron and Jeff, I've now been to almost a dozen state or national parks across the world. My wife and I even spent part of our honeymoon at Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. I'm now experienced enough to help others experience the outdoors. It is a great honor and duty, I think, to be a person that introduces someone else to the glorious natural treasures we have in America.
Our country and world are so blessed to have tremendous majesty and natural beauty. And experiences in nature leave you feeling so connected not just to the earth, but to all those have traveled trails before you - it's a damn near religious experience. Once you experience the outdoors in such a meaningful way, it's hard not to take that appreciation to other parts of life - whether it's in your own neighborhood (Detroiters - Belle Isle!) or to the ballot box.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service - it's a celebration of being outside. Whether it's a park, nature reserve, or historic landmark you'll be glad you visited - take a trip! Not only is it wonderful, it can be a very cheap vacation. The Park Service has actually really upped its game and it's never been easier to plan a trip, just head to findyourpark.com or recreation.gov.
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