My Top 5 Ways to Give Someone a Love for the Outdoors

DSCN2224At age four I was the intrepid explorer tramping through the mountain undergrowth with my family. At 10 I was constantly seeking out outdoor experiences of all kinds, begging my parents to fish or hike. Now at 17 my relationship with Mother Nature has grown stronger, strong enough to push me to educate my friends suffering from Nature Deficit Disorder. Here are my top five ways to give someone a love for the outdoors.

  1. Take Them Fishing

The best way to show someone why you love the outdoors is take them out to do what you know best. Whether fishing, hunting, hiking, or camping it will be easier for you to seem knowledgeable and answer questions if you really know the subject. My greatest love lies in fishing and getting someone hooked (pun intended) is a two step process. Step one is to show them what it’s all about. Take them to a small pond or lake for a few hours one evening and be sure they are able to catch a few fish. It doesn’t matter size or type as long as they come consistently enough to keep your fiend occupied. The trick is making them feel like they have succeeded in learning something. Step two will get them deeper into it. Take them to a mountain lake with plentiful rainbow trout populations and a fair away out of the beaten path. As one of the most beautiful and well known fish, the rainbow trout is a type that every beginning fisherman should have a chance to experience. The beauty of the mountains is also something that will help serve to take someone’s breath away. Combine the majesty of the mountains with the silver luster of a healthy trout and it makes a combination not soon forgotten. You’ll see this is true when your friend stands on the shore staring out across the lake, drinking it all in.

  1. Bring Them on a Morning Hike

Any good photographer knows that the morning and evening are among the best times to take pictures because you don’t have the harsh light of the midday sun. Rather, the light filtering down is soft and diffused and gives pictures inspirational qualities. With this in mind, it makes sense to walk the wild at this time of day. The birds are just waking up and the sound of so many kinds celebrating the morning becomes a beautiful symphony of bird calls.  If you go early enough, you won’t see a soul for the majority of your walk and your friend can take their time soaking in all the grandeur of the outdoors. If they’re the type who couldn’t possibly leave their phone in the car, going in the morning reduces the amount of possible distractions. Everyone else on their contact list is still asleep or just beginning their morning. Your friend can be relatively uninterrupted from his wild induced high.

  1. Camping with Amenities

Camping has become fairly synonymous with outdoor love and it’s for a good reason. While camping, a person has access to all things outdoors and is relatively free from ordinary hassles. I recommend starting slow and going camping where there are showers and adequate bathroom utilities for only a night or two. Nothing will turn off a person to camping more than gritty, oily skin and squatting in the woods so ease them into it. The first experience determines how a person will expect future trips so the first impression better be a good one. Don’t make them too comfortable however, teach them that camping is dirty, uncomfortable, and all around amazing. For the love of nature, do not forget the s’mores. Roasting marshmallows over an open fire is the best childlike fun a person can have on these trips and chocolate is proven to release feel good chemicals into the body that leave them looking forward to more.

  1. Regal your friend with stories

Good stories are the staple of any outdoor discipline and it’s practically required for you to tell a few while sitting around a fire. Let your friend vicariously live out your adventures by telling tales of your experience, both good and bad. Provide insightful anecdotes, make them laugh, make them gasp, make them look at you funny (ever wipe your butt with poison ivy?). Above all show that you are excited to tell them and reiterate just how much fun the great outdoors can be. Because their own experience in the outdoors may be limited, set them up to make them feel like they were there with you.

  1. Bring more friends

Personally, as many would agree, there is no problem with exploring the wilds alone. Drinking in the silence of solitude and finding joy in sinking into one’s own thoughts is part of what makes nature so alluring to those of us that enjoy it. Contrary to this philosophy is the fact that I find bringing more than one or two friends greatly increases the joy that they will get from it. For some, jumping into the silence is too little stimulation too fast. By bringing along more friends it increases the feeling of shared experience and it amplifies the good and muffles the bad. They also will feel like they have stories and memories of each other and that will make friendships last longer. Bonding can happen in the most extraordinary of ways while outside in mother nature.

Hopefully by the end of any trip, a person is struck by the memories and feelings of having had a deeper connection with the outdoors. As the next generation of outdoorsman and nature lovers, it is our responsibility to educate our fellow people on the majesty of Mother Nature. With schools removing programs such as outdoor education under the guise that they are unnecessary expense, it is extremely pertinent that we all do our very best to spread the passion. To show that, in the words of Edward Abbey, “Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit.” (Quote by Edward Abbey from Desert Solitaire)

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Fishing The Wind, Chasing the Dark

The first thing that struck me was the wind. It buffeted us in great currents and only the din of the waves crashing against the rocks could be heard above the relentless bombardment on my eardrums. Anything I had to say, I had to shout.

“Same spot!”I yelled. My friend nodded in agreement but that as well was barely discernible. The darkness was continuing to grow more opaque.

The boat ramp we walked on shot 50 yards out into the water and offered little amenities for the diehard fisherman walking upon it. One bulb offered its meager light at the end, but all other illumination came from whatever torches we had on hand.

I hugged the sleeping bag around my neck tighter lest it should catch the wind and fly out into the cold lake. Each of us carried assorted gear, a flashlight, and our sleeping bags to huddle in once we got settled.

The wind seemed to take away even our light so that between us and our destination was one long, dark expanse. I could imagine being a rider on the Mayflower, as darkness fell each night the sound of the waves against the boat hull is all that told the crew they still floated upon water. The thought that no one could hear me scream flashed across my thoughts. Suppose a pack of coyotes trapped us at the end giving us the choice of death by warmth from frigid water or slashes of frenzied teeth. I presumed I’d choose the latter. At least then there might be pieces of me easily found. I’d rather die by fight than to be simply drowned. It was a tremendous comfort to have another person on my excursion out here, just the simple presence of a trusted companion helped sooth my mounting nervousness.

As if sensing his role, my reverie was broken. “Is this it?” he shouted and motioned to the general silhouette of the rocks alongside us.

Much earlier in the day I had stacked two rocks upon one another as a stand to set my poles, tonight their role was as a marker. We walked slower and scoured the side we presumed to be the location of the place we wished to find. From land our roaming flashlights appeared to dance above the water like will-o-the-wisps luring out innocents by way of their curiosity.

My friend tapped me on my shoulder and pointed a little ways ahead of us at the sign of our destination. There was no time to waste. The wind out here was completely unbroken as it travels over the lake and yanks heat from any exposed surface. In all regards it feels as if powerful hands push and pull you from every direction. The sleeping bags anchored with rocks, I handed off a fishing pole and bait box to my partner and he shuffled off into the gloom. Only a few steps and he became a featureless shadow. I pulled from two more rods from the bag and opted to further prepare while I was comfortably secured. I slipped off shoes and slipped on the sleeping bag then cowered as low as possible on the wind blocked slope. Instantaneously, I was struck with the differences in this general change of position. After such long exposure to the howling wind, it was a great relief to be out of it. The sound of waves was still a permanent fixture but it was clearer without the wind plugging my ears. It roared and rocked against the wind blown side of the pier but the white frothed water could only shower dismal mist on us from time to time. I also noticed the warmth. Out of the wind the air felt dry and less numbing. The rocks we laid upon still held residual heat from the sun and coupled with the sleeping bags rendered us free from the cold we had endured in getting here. All I could do was smile to myself. Now most, upon finding white capped waves, would succumb to stowing away the fishing gear and huddling in tents or RV’s hoping that the weather would subside. By way of dogged determination and foolhardy reasoning I thought there is no harm in trying. So I went. My friend came along as well and I was impressed with his staunch manner. Not once did I hear a moan or groan saying otherwise. As a result of our decisions, now here we are, both lying in pockets of tranquility surrounded by Mother Nature’s violence. My friend raised his hand to a testament of this phenomenon.

He said, “I think the wind calmed down.”

I laughed. “It’s only because the wind is blocked here.”

Intrigued, he raised his hand above the hill and his mouth widened into a smile. “Nope, the wind didn’t change.”

I smiled as well and raised my own hand. What a paradox! My body free from the cold and wind yet my arm wrenched by the relentless currents.

In a sort of awe from the moment, I took to feeling and drinking in my position. By now it was pitch black, windy, and freezing cold. Yet my torch gave enough light to work by, the wind was blocked, and my body was warm. Mist touched my skin and wind-blown sand peppered my face. The light behind me illuminated a forebodingly empty boat ramp and it rattled loudly against its base. Fishing gear lay strewn around me in a semi-circle and when I lay down on one of the bags I could see the moon shrouded in heavy clouds. It was uniquely beautiful. I took one last glance all around and set about my work assembling rod pieces and tying on the various weights and hooks I knew that I would need. From then on it was simply a waiting game. Now we were fishing. I angled my light on my rods and sat listening to my meandering thoughts. Looking over at my company told the same story.

A trivial amount of time had passed and I noticed movement a tiny bit up the shore from where I sat. It’s probably just a shadow. Just in case, I looked at the same spot hoping to catch a glimpse of the apparition again.

There!

A tiny little mouse was bounding under and over the rocks next to me in bursts of motion and sudden disappearances. Being unafraid and rather happily amused I watched the little creature run and jump. I’ve no doubt it would tell me stories if I could have heard its little squeaks above the wind. I laughed the cringed at how loud such a squeak would be.

“Look it’s a mouse!” I shouted over.

“A what?”

“A mouse!” I smiled and pointed but though he heard me, no effort was made to see it. Eventually the little creature left me to areas unknown and it was back to watching my lifeless rods. Tight lines meant that even the smallest bite would show up as a tick on the rod tip but the way the waves pulled at the line caused it to bend and straighten over and over again. It was almost a cruel, mocking dance. Just to show you there’s no fish, the waves will show you how it would look if there was mwahahaha. Still, it was mesmerizing.

Pull…

Release…

Pull…

Release…

The sudden clatter of rocks drew my attention. I looked over and my friend was bolt upright and wide-eyed, halfway in and halfway out of his sleeping bag.

“A mouse was on my bag!”

I laughed. So that’s where it went!

“Yeah I had one over here too.” I casually informed him.

“Want to head back?”

“Sure, had enough?” I asked.

“I hate mice.” Came the reply.

He leaned forward and shouted with confusion when he picked up his rod. “I think I’ve got one!” He stood up and began fighting a fish that must have taken the bait seconds after the mouse attack. The arched rod inspired me I grabbed the net and stood up. It felt as if I had jumped into a whitewater river the way I was hit by the wind. Somehow it had managed to increase in velocity and by so much that there was an apparent difference in it from when we arrived and now. The screaming reel kept me focused.

Lift, pull, lift, pull he brought the fish in.

Crouch, reach, and scoop I took the fish up.

Both lights trained on it revealed it was a decent sized grass carp. Its skin glistened in the artificial light with an eerie sheen and the pumping gills gasped at the air. The release was quick. An unspoken agreement was made to get off the boat ramp as quick as possible. My friend stowed away his rod and gear and as I ran over to mine I was greeted with a surprise. Once perpendicular, one rod now pointed out into the water, precariously balanced on the edge of the rock it sat on.

“I’ve got one too!”

The same fervent panicking ensued and it was another carp albeit quite large compared to its predecessor. This particular fish was a common carp, hence the larger size.

My friend laughed. “Right as we were leaving we both got one!”

I laughed too. It’s funny how that goes sometimes.

Finally able to pack up we got ourselves situated for the long walk back to camp. The beginning of our journey met us at the end. The roaring waves. The howling wind. Nothing was able to be heard so nothing was spoken. We walked in silence.

Although eager to leave, I had my friend stand for a picture to commemorate the experience. If I fished purely for the fish, I would have given up long ago. Rather, I fish for memories. Tonight I made one.

Ties To My Grandfather

I was brought into this world soon after my grandfather was taken out of it. As fate would have it, neither he nor I had the chance to bond over matters that inspired us both. An avid outdoorsman, there was a lot of information that he could of passed down to me. My grandmother gave to me the love for an art that my grandfather had pursued during his life.

It was unusually warm on this early October day, the sun hadn’t even thought about cooling down yet and its violent rays chased my family and I under a shaded area sheltered by a gazebo. In the spirit of my loves I had requested that this birthday be fishing oriented so we sat on the shore of a small city park pond filled to the brim with bluegill and bass of varying sizes that were perfect to catch one after another. Having spent a large amount of time pursuing them, my mother’s call for cake and presents is what finally brought my sun kissed skin in from the shoreline. I took my rightful position as birthday boy and began opening my gifts. They were all fairly typical, a ball, some books, fishing essentials, but one caught my eye. It was a plastic box about the size of a lunch box with the words “beginner essentials fly tying kit” emblazoned on the top in blocky, cheap lettering. I made a confused face.

“Grandma what’s this?”

She just smiled and said to me. “When your grandpa was alive, he used to make fly fishing flies all the time. His floor was covered in hooks and feathers and bits of skin and he would sometimes sell them to other fishermen for them to use.”

My mom laughed, “ I remember we couldn’t even walk into his room barefoot unless you wanted a foot piercing.”

Their smiles were of memories. Bygone times holding the essence of who my grandfather was and who I would make him out to be. Even as young as I was I still could feel the message in this moment. That though my grandpa is gone, his legacy can still live on through me, the next generation of outdoorsman. With this in mind I started tying flies. At first, it was a disaster. Each fly I tied looked more wonky and abused then the previous one and they were all barely fishable on account of the globs of head cement I soaked them in. Bright orange dubbing and whole portions of mismatched feathers would be thrown on and wrapped in my desperate attempts at building these little bugs. Slowly but surely however, my skill started to increase. I books of recipes for each type of fly and learned to follow step by step instructions that detailed each section. By trial and error I was able to eyeball hook size to fly type as well as the type of fish that I was angling for. The mess became clearer as I shed the beginner mentality and stepped into adequacy. Pretty soon the flies I created were well tied enough that they would fool young trout and bluegill in lakes and farm ponds alike. I felt a growing sense of accomplishment the more I realized that the fish I was catching, however small, were fish I was fooling with my art. The art of fly tying. With the accomplishment came a silent prayer to my grandfather. I wanted so badly to ask him if I was doing it right. If the flies I tied made him proud or if he could feel the tug of the fish on my hands and know that hit was there because of him. Time flew by and my skill with bobbin and thread became such that I spent very little money on store bought flies. I had my own favorites to tie and what I didn’t have I learned how to make.

By now it was Christmas morning 4-6 years after I had gotten my little tying kit from my grandma. My family and I were huddled around the tree opening the first of our presents and I had chosen the ones from an uncle who lived several states away. I appeared to be a large box and that seemed to be the most alluring object in my pile. Opening it with elated abandon, I tore through the paper shell and cut the tape revealing the contents. Fly tying tools and materials; a lot of it. Packed to the brim were feathers, fur, hooks, thread, quills, floss and a general cornucopia of fly tying paraphernalia. I was ecstatic! Examining each package with reverent wonder I was filled with visions of all the flies that could be constructed from these materials. Descending down through the layers of the box I unveiled a second one. It was heavy, flat, and quite long. At first I was perplexed by it and momentarily stunned. What could this be? Opening it and unwrapping the contents I was surprised to find a brand new fly tying vice.

I heard my grandma speak up, “That one is from your grandpa. It’s one that he made.”

My eyes teared up and I looked up, “Thank you Grandpa.”

See, although I never met him and he never met me, I am still visited by his memory. A spirit encouraging me from the sky above to strive for perseverance and fuel my love for the wild.