What is the “wilderness experience?”

During a recent backpacking trip with friends, I asked them what the “wilderness experience” means to them.yabhikingOne partner responded that the lack of distraction calmed her mind. With the to-do list left at home, there is space for contemplation. Plus, this quietude greatly alleviated some general anxiety and even a specific fear. Namely, the fear of death. Out of doors the natural cycles of day and night, warmth and cool, activity and stillness are readily apparent and more difficult to mask with a lightbulb or erase with the air conditioner inside four walls. She feels her own biggest cycle of birth, life, and ending? become not as mysterious as before. More a part of a natural rhythm.yabsunsetIt reminds me of the time I found a dead bat in broad daylight not 10 yards from our freshly pitched tent. At least I thought it was dead judging by the non-animation. When I went to remove it from the area by makeshift stick-tongs, I swear it momentarily morphed into a rabid wolverine. This unexpected toothy action launched me into a backwards somersault. Then, it just lay there gasping, clearly unwell. Clearly miserable. Clearly it had to be put out of said misery. Life and especially death; a natural cycle we aren’t privy to on a regular basis in a pre-packaged, disposable culture.yabtarnAnother member of the group mentioned the recharging she felt when in nature; like a car battery getting juiced up after leaving the lights on overnight. She spoke of this energizing even in the midst of increased physical exertion; i.e., hauling 20-40 pounds up 2-4000 feet of elevation.yabhiking2Perhaps the energizing or centering has something to do with the slowing down of time in accordance with these more accessible rhythms. Is there something measurable, I wonder, to explain this effect or is it just simply felt?yabsmallA sense of expansion was echoed by all in our group.  Somehow something within grew; the spirit, aura, or just plain good vibes? Paradoxically, we all felt small in comparison to the gigantic landscape, huge views, and intricate beauty. Not small as in unimportant, but small as in humble; aware of all the positives and negatives. Contented.yabcozy

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3 thoughts on “What is the “wilderness experience?”

  1. I’m really agree with your first partner. With a lack of distraction you can focus yourself in simplicities like beauty, sounds, colours… Then you can relax your mind and forget for a while all your issues. Best wishes and nice shots!

  2. I can relate to your first partner’s answer, but in a very different way. I have an ongoing anxiety about death, although it hasn’t bothered me much in a few years. It really isn’t the fact that some day I’m going to die, it’s that I have a certain amount of time left under the sun … am I using it wisely? This is the most precious thing I have, and here I’m squandering it on, well, all sorts of things. But when I go into the mountains and get away from the crowds, surrounding myself with beauty and with the timelessness of nature, I feel deeply connected to my surroundings, and I feel like I’m doing exactly what I should be doing. The clock is still ticking, sure, but I’m making the best possible use of my time. And that takes the anxiety away.

    For perspective, though, that anxiety is so bad I can’t go a whole day without leaving my house. After a few hours, I feel the walls closing in, and go out for a walk.

  3. Thanks for the reflection, Forrest. Sounds pretty normal to me, perhaps not common, but normal nonetheless. To feel better out of doors; in a state closer to what we evolved over millennia to synchronize with.

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