Sunday, February 26, 2012

Little Adventures

I was plodding along in the George Washington National Forest this afternoon when I thought of this blog.  Then I thought of a little something to say and took a few pictures.
-Ben Bailey former Troop 76 Scout 

For most people, big adventures are few and far between .  Sadly, many of come come of age ready to set out for bigger and better things and quickly find ourselves bogged down and bound-up by the obligations of adulthood.  After completing most of an undergraduate degree, I reflect back and notice that a majority of my big adventures took place while I was in high school.  Studies, friends, and work leave little time for wilderness or adventure.  Weeks can be chock-full and leave you exhausted by the time the weekend rolls around.  I think its fair to say that the struggle to maintain a presence in the outdoors is a reality for most Troop 76 alumni.

I have found a few remedies, which help maintain at least a minimal degree of adventure in my life.  First, I bought a mountain bike.  This isn't necessary, of course, but it allows me to get far back into the wilderness in a short period of time.  I can feel well off the grid in about an hour of riding.  Also, the thought of flowy downhills get me out the door when I'm feeling a little hesitant.  I should add that, depending on where you live, a kayak can do the trick too.  Second, I made adventuresome friends and mentors.  It saves time when you can hang out with your friends and be outdoors at the same time.  Additionally, on those days you really don't feel like committing to the fatigue of adventuring, you feel compelled to go because you know that you'll be in good company.  Just like life, when the going gets tough, there's nothing like having a good friend by your side and nothing makes a long climb go by faster than good conversation.  Finally, I suggest "little adventures".  Block out a whole day.  Work your meals into it.  Use an good breakfast at your favorite eatery to get you out of bed.  Round-up as many friends as you can.  Be ambitious, but not too ambitious.  You want to feel like you accomplished something, but not feel so uncomfortable that you regret your decision to choose being outdoors over homework.  Be flexible.  Work-in obstacles.  Bring plenty of clothes and lots of food.  Be home in time for dinner.  Relax.  Little adventures will restore that spunk in your step.  They'll be the highlight of your week.  They'll provide cool pictures and lasting memories.  They form strong friendships.  And they might just whet your appetite for another big adventure.

Here is some inspiration from my latest Saturday adventure:

I woke up around 9 and made my favorite homemade oatmeal and deliberately packed my bag.  I had prepared my bike the night before.  I met my friend and co-worker Jacob, and we stopped by Mr. J's bagels.  We picked-up a few sandwiches for the trail.  We then drove about half-an-hour to the trail head in the George Washington National Forest. 

Nothing exciting happened for the first 45 minutes of our ride.  We rolled on fire roads toward the trail head.  There was nothing worth photographing, but we had plenty of time to catch-up after a week of work and school.
 Then we found ourselves faced with a snow-melt inflated stream, which we needed to cross to get to the trail-head.  Jacob forged across using his bike for balance.

 After much scouting, there was no way around it.  Off came the shoes and socks.

 That chain-lube I put on my bike last night has all washed off.  That's one wet bicycle.

 Maybe a bridge would be helpful?  Wouldn't be as fun, though.

 We spent the the next hour-and-a-half hiking our bikes up the trail.  Much of this would have been rideable if it wasn't so hard to get traction and our shoes and pedals weren't caked in ice.

 I was pretty pooped by the time we reached the summit of Little Bald Knob.

 It's snowing and gusting, but photos can't capture such weather.

...and I'm all suited up for the cold descent.
 Oops, I broke a spoke.

 Fortunately, the sun came back out as we descended Chestnut Ridge.

 Jacob's hands got pretty cold.  Thankfully, we had a pair of bar mits.  They're nice and toasty.

 The last part of the ride was on the road.

At this point, my cable froze and locked me into my largest gear.  Fortunately, we didn't have too much further to go.

We made it back to the car with just enough fun for one day.

I'm gonna have to have to do some repairs before our next ride.

Obstacles like cold, hunger, steep hills, stream crossings, and mechanical malfunctions all serve to make an afternoon in the woods feel like a few days or more.  In the summer, these things can be less of a problem, so be a little more ambitious.  Try a large distance goal or choose an interesting destination.  Enjoy your ability to go on long trips, while you have it.  But remember, there are ways to work adventure into your increasingly busy life.  Nothing helps you reflect on what is important in your life like spending time in the wilderness.