The delicate purr of a hummingbird crosses your vision as you gaze out over the mirror-stillness of an alpine lake. It’s evening, and the low-hanging sun has turned the entire valley to coral flame. You crack a beer, flip open your camp chair, and settle in to watch the show in perfect solitude. Just then, you hear a high-pitched buzzing noise and start frantically looking around, darting your head from body part to body part. It lands on your right arm, and you thunderously SMACK your left hand against the skin, squashing the attacker to bits. You heave a sigh of frustration and shake your fist at the sky.
Mosquitoes have invaded your once-perfect evening.
If you’ve ever been hiking or camping, you know this feeling. You’ll climb a peak for hours only to be blasted with 40mph winds when you reach the summit, making it nearly impossible to enjoy the view for more than 3 minutes. Or the weather will be warm and sunny all afternoon for your bike ride, but you’ll return home to find you’ve acquired a heinous sunburn (even though you reapplied sunscreen twice). Or the trail you’re thru-hiking is covered in furry green moss and gorgeous, obscure wildflowers, but it rains nearly every single day, leaving you a soggy mess.
It’s inevitable. No matter which way you slice it, there’s always a “but” in nature.
Humans are notoriously sensitive creatures. We like a temperature spectrum of about 5 degrees without a lick of wind, we like carbs and fat in cheap, easy to obtain packages, we like to stay dry, we like to see bears but not confront them, and we like our wilderness without a side of bugs and poison oak.
I’m not saying we’re weak; I’m just highlighting the fact that our bodies aren’t designed for extended time in harsh conditions. We have few natural defenses.
Let’s face it. Our skins are thin. The more time we spend in the wilderness, the easier it is to notice that we’re a bunch of fragile little apes that only thrive in a tiny sliver of the earth’s spectrum. But, we were also gifted these incredible, voracious minds that love to wrestle with the elements, raft down the Amazon, hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, trail run 50km days, and summit mountains in single-digit temperatures.
So, what’s a hairless primate to do?
To start, we can do our best to zoom out when the going gets rough and try to see the bigger picture. Is there a honeybee on your hat? Gently put her back onto a neighboring plant and remind yourself that she’s the reason you get to eat fruit. Is your favorite trail still covered with snow in June? Strap on some microspikes and try to smile, because California is now officially out of her drought!
The views and the soulful grounding that only the mountains can provide far outweigh any adversity they might fling at us. It’s a lot like life itself. We take the good along with the bad, and hopefully we emerge transformed. Like Hunter S. Thompson once said, “If it occasionally gets a little heavier than you had in mind, well… maybe chalk it off to forced consciousness expansion.”
Nature may feel like it always comes with a caveat, but it’s worth it. I mean, would you really rather be anywhere else?
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