“Wilderness is not a luxury, but a necessity of the human spirit.”
I first encountered those words at the bottom of every email that zipped its way towards me via my Venturing advisor. Her emails came in a steady flow, sometimes sending two or three a day. She dutifully informed even the most half-hearted of Scouts of any little thing that was going on in the world of Boy Scouts of America and their affiliates, Venturing being one of them.
I never gave a thought to her signature.
I never considered myself an outdoorsy person. I lacked any sort of strength or endurance, and my next-to-translucent skin tone kept me from enduring the sun for very long. Somehow, though, thanks to a potential love interest of a boy, I found myself sitting at a picnic table at the elementary school playground, discussing an upcoming camping trip, and some thing called Philmont. Next thing I know, I’m elected an officer, and I promise to talk to my dad about Philmont.
Ten and a halfish months later, I am sitting on a cramped bus filled with Boy Scouts, en route to the Mecca of the Boy Scouting world—Philmont Scout Ranch. In front of me, the grueling plans for our 72-miles-in-eleven-days backpacking trip laugh at me. But now I’ve got a slew of camping trips under my padded hip belt. No sweat, right? Two showers in two weeks…seeing life through the eyes of a turtle as I carry only the bare essentials on my back…facing altitude sickness…mountains…the threat of bears and cougars…and let’s through a case of hypothermia in there just for laughs. Yeah. Easy. Right.
Well, after many a rainy day during a supposedly severe drought, my case of hypothermia, followed by overheating the next day, smelling weird, and countless songs and an epic tale known as only “The Cheerio Joke”, my crew makes it to one of our last days. I am amazed. Period.
We come upon a scenic overlook called Window Rock, and stop to remove our thirty to fifty pound packs. The twelve of us stop to breathe for twenty minutes, but wind up gawking instead. Surrounding me is about three hundred and sixty degrees of pure awesome. The view is amazing—not only can you see snow-peaked mountains in the distance; you can also see the scatterings of base camps and town beneath you.
It was then when I realized I could not live the rest of my life without ever seeing this again. My soul craved another two weeks to be added onto our trek, or better yet, another year. This wasn’t an indulgence, like Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, nor was this a privilege, like being able to stay out past ten. This was as natural as breathing, and as calming as a full night’s rest. Right then and there, I realized what tacky quote meant—this was not a luxury, but a necessity of MY human spirit.
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