Edward Abby once said: Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity to the human spirit. Those of us, who regularly trek steep mountain trails, climb boulders and vast rock walls, and journey through deep forests, know there to be no truer words. The relaxation and fulfillment that comes with exploring the deep backcountry is second to none.
There are many forms of therapy, relaxation, and escape from the hustle, bustle, stress of daily life, and transitions from one norm to another. Many of these varieties consist of talking with a close friend or relative, listening to music, yoga and other exercise, and just sitting quietly. Many are finding, including some practices within medicine, however, that a short backpacking trip or even day hike through wilderness can help the body and mind reset. This of course comes with the escape from electronic devises, routine schedules, and regular mundane practices.
I’ve spoken with a few veterans that after separating from the military took extended backpacking trips while others went on road trips to accommodate wilderness exploration across the country. They all agreed that it was the best thing they could have done to help transition from military life to civilian life. The same went for many who suffered during the economic decline of 2008. Some who were laid off from their jobs turned to the trail. Nature provides quiet, peaceful scenery, and no real schedule so that the explorer has plenty of time and space to reflect and contemplate.
There are even stories of John Muir, after years of exploration and having settled down to marry and manage the family farm, escaping into the mountains and taking his daughters along, when time allowed. But even after ten years on the farm he eventually returned to the wild where he knew he belonged. And it was through his exploration and testaments that many of the places we know and love have remained wild. And because of him organizations and movements were started to maintain these areas.
There’s just something about stepping into wilderness. It’s like hitting a release valve and pressure is set free. No two scenes, sunsets, sunrises or distant views are exactly alike and the landscape constantly shifts with every step. There is a harsh exciting sense that comes with exploring steep mountainsides and tall waterfalls. But there is also a relaxing sense at the same time when the only sounds are bird songs, the wind as it caresses leaves and brush, and maybe a nearby stream. All while epic vistas span every direction.
It is obvious how important Edward Abby’s quote is and how important nature is to us. Nature, wilderness, the backcountry, however you refer to it, is essential to our wellbeing with it’s great therapeutic attributes and can help us to live less complicated and richer lives.
Hit a trail, climbing route or float a waterway, you’ll be really glad you did!