February 7, 2023
The great outdoors offers a magnificent opportunity to learn about the world we live in, nature, and perhaps even yourself. Each time you hit the trail, there is a chance to uncover something new. Getting outside can provide inspiration, creativity, as well as a better connection with yourself and our outside world.
The Wilderness is defined as “an area where the Earth and its’ community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” Being able to experience the Wilderness as a human being is a special privilege, and as such it is our duty to protect these natural ecosystems so they can live on, and so future generations can experience them as well. The Wilderness can provide peace, solitude, and retrospection, and depicts what our world was once like.
What the Wilderness Has Taught Me:
1. TO BE PRESENT.
Find joy in the little things. Listen to the wind blow through the trees as their branches brush against each other, soak in the smell of the pines. One of the things I love most about nature is that it doesn’t need us to keep moving, in fact it really doesn’t rely on us at all. The streams would still flow without us, trash free may I add, the birds would keep chirping, and the grass would keep growing. It feels nice to recognize that and it’s an honor to be part of it.
2. THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ADAPTABLE.
One of the biggest lessons that the outdoors has taught me so far is that nothing ever goes exactly according to plan. The trailhead will. be full, or you can’t find it because there’s too much snow; the road might be closed; your car will get stuck; or it will be so windy and snowy that there is zero visibility; it might start hailing out of nowhere, the rain won’t stop for 14 hours, or you will look down over a river crossing and lose your glasses in the stream (all true stories).
But if you let these things stop you, then you would never get out on an adventure, so it’s best to move forward and learn from these situations, and accept that Mother Nature will ultimately always make the calls.
3. THE WILDERNESS IS FUN, BUT NEVER A GAME.
Getting outside is incrediblly rewarding, but it is no joke, and it can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing or stepping too far past your experience level. There have been several times where I was a little too confident in my ~continuously developing~ skills, and put myself in situations that were not safe. For example, I got lost in the woods by myself…in the snow, with a cell phone at 1% and no cell service, no paper map, the sun was setting, little food and emergency supplies, and wet clothing. Another time I almost started an avalanche with my dog and slid 100+ yards down a mountain (stories for posts to come). It is beautiful out there, but it can be really dangerous, and that is why I lead educational guided hikes – to teach people like you and I how to prepare and navigate these situations, while still having fun.
4. TO PLAN.
Plan so much that you have a second backup plan for your first backup plan. I cannot stress this enough! It kind of goes along with being adaptable, but since most things don’t go 100% according to plan, it’s important to have an idea of what you might do if things don’t work out. This means being prepared and having things in your backpack such as the ten essentials including a first aid kit, extra water and food, dry clothing, maps of where you’re going, a compass, etc. It also means things like having an extra pair of glasses in your car so you can see on the drive home if you lose them in a river crossing, or having a plan B and C backup hike if the first trailhead is too crowded or closed for some reason. In addition, you should spend some time researching the area you’re going to be hiking in, and being educated on the situations you could be put in (eg. exposure, weather), and be sure to let someone know exactly where you’re going and when you plan on being back. If you throw everything completely up to chance, you could be putting yourself in life or death situations.
5. FEAR CAN HOLD YOU BACK.
Don’t be afraid of fear. That is, don’t let fear hold you back. Fear of bears, fear of being alone, fear of getting lost, even the fear of failing. You’re going to encounter new fears that you had never even thought of as you go out into the Wilderness. All we can do is plan as best as possible, educate ourselves, and learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. There is massive opportunity for growth at the face of a challenge.
The best part of these new experiences is they make you vulnerable, and vulnerability accompanies growth. Opening up and accepting vulnerability has allowed me to make space to be my best self, which seems to inspire others to do the same 😌
6. IT’S GOOD TO CHALLENGE OURSELVES.
When I first moved to Colorado, there were a lot of places I wanted to explore, and I never went because I was afraid to go alone. I waited for people to go with me but no one ever wanted to go as often as I did. I get it, most people don’t want to spend their weekend waking up at 3:30 in the morning to go hike for 8 hours just to go home, sleep, and wake up the next morning to do it all again.
At a certain point, I decided I was going to have to get over my fear of going alone and just go, or I was never going to see the places I so badly wanted to. That was a challenge that took me some time to overcome, and to be honest – I still get nervous before many solo adventures, and every once in a while I still get paranoid if I’m on a trail completely alone. But there will always be another obstacle to overcome. Once I got over that, I had to overcome the challenge of longer distance hiking and being farther from resources. I went from traveling an average of 4-5 miles a day to 6-8 miles, then 8-12+ miles to now where I can hike up to 20 miles in a single day. After that, it became elevation gain. If you can let these challenges inspire you rather than make you afraid or fearful, you will have a superpower on the trails.
I’m very grateful to the trails for providing constant new obstacles for me; I definitely don’t get bored! But with all of these challenges, I have to prove to myself that I can figure it out and learn new ways to be self-sufficient.
7. TO LISTEN.
When you start to listen, you realize how small the modern world truly is; including how small us and our problems are. You realize that we are part of something so much more than what we encounter in our day to day lives. You realize how quiet it is out there, and find solace in that.
When you start to listen, you also start to see more. You might notice a hummingbird in the pines, or a bee pollinating the wildflowers, or maybe even a family of otters playing across the river. It’s all connected and part of something so specials. When you start to listen, you feel that.
“To be whole. To be complete. Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from.”
– Terry Tempest Williams
8. TO PLAY.
Life is too short to be serious all the time. Take the trip, go float on a river, book the flight, summit the mountain, cross the fallen tree to the other side of the creek, and go chase the sunset. Do ALL of it, and don’t ever wait to have fun, because this life is the only chance we get to really live and we have the opportunity to create the reality we want to see. What do you want yours to look like?
Hi there! I’m Shelby, a
Colorado hiking guide!
I’m here to inspire you to climb your mountain from the ground UP.
I’m an avid hiker and backpacker, and also love camping, fishing, and anything else I can do outdoors, even if it means going alone! I believe nature is the best teacher of all, and I find joy sharing this knowledge so you can feel empowered on your own adventures!
9. THE IMPORTANCE OF LEAVING IT BETTER.
“Leave it better than you found it” is something that I was taught as a child, long before I ever knew what “leave no trace” was. I know a lot of people go by the standards of LNT, but I like to go a step above and say leave it better than you found it. To me, leave no trace can be interpreted as not to leave your own trace. I don’t know about you, but it’s unfortunately quite often that I find trash when I’m out hiking on the trails, and I cannot keep walking past and leave trash behind in a place that is so special and so fragile. A lot of trash and litter can bring in harmful bacteria into these delicate ecosystems, that can cause a domino effect of harmful issues. Bacteria from litter on the ground can flow into streams or alpine lakes after snowmelt, which can wipe out entire communities of fish or the litter ends up being eaten by animals and stuck in their stomachs.
If you pack it in, pack it out, and if you see trash and have the capability to pack it out with you, for the sake of Mother Nature, please do.
10. THE ONLY CONSTANT IS CHANGE.
This is so true, especially in the mountains. The snow accumulates taller than some trees, then it melts. The rivers fill, the wildflowers bloom, the aspens turn gold and then it all starts over again. Watching the seasons change is a perfect reminder that nothing blooms all year and everything in life has it’s phases, but every piece is still beautiful and important. Life is so much more enjoyable when you float through these changes and be present within them.
So there you have it – ten lesson the Wilderness has taught me during my adventures over the years. Thank you for reading and helping us make the world a better place by learning more. If the Wilderness has taught you any of the lessons listed above, or a different one, I would love to hear your story!
As always let me know if you have any questions! Happy trails 🙂
Read next: What To Do If You Get Lost in the Wilderness
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