I awoke to what sounded like twigs snapping. It was late morning and my four buddies were still passed out on their sleeping bags. I sat up, paused for a moment, and tried to confirm whether or not I dreamt that strange sound. I strained my ears and eyes when again, some underbrush crunched much closer than before. There he lumbered, apparently scavenging for food. A full grown black bear was in our camp! The adrenaline rush and excitement that followed is hard to describe. I clumsily shook my buddies awake while trying not to make too much noise to scare off the bear. Mesmerized, we gazed at this king of the forest as he plodded off into the nearby valley. My buddies and I will never forget that morning.
This anecdote illustrates one of the infinite number of experiences nature has to offer. I believe our society needs to strengthen our connection with Mother Nature. I’m not advocating that everyone needs a close encounter with a 500 pound bear, but that we would all be better off with greater exposure to the outdoors.
Camping has always been a part of my life. Since the he could get boots on our feet, my father had my brother and me blazing trails and pitching tents from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia all the way up to the white shores of Michigan’s North Manitou Island. During my past couple of years here at PSU, my interest in the outdoors has grown. I’ve even been on multiple outdoor excursions, including the bear encounter occurring last summer outside of Bedford, PA. The outdoors have and always will be an integral part of my life.
Nature provides a cheap and healthy means to de-stress. Strolling along scenic trails, breathing in fresh air, and drinking down cool mountain stream water all help to melt away the worries we accumulate in this concrete world where we spend most of our time. Work, classes, and social problems push everyone’s limits. I love to leave that all behind, literally, and venture out to a state park or go for a scenic drive. Nature does wonders for the soul. As my stresses have grown, I’ve found solace in the great outdoors. Mother Nature holds surprises, experiences, and an overall serenity that can’t be manufactured.
In every state, in most every direction you travel, you can find a beautiful and sprawling state or national park built for the sole purpose of providing for public enjoyment. I believe we’d all be better off with a greater exposure to our wonderful outdoors. I hope everyone can one day experience a nature moment as moving as my bear encounter. Remember the words of Teddy Roosevelt; “The beauty and charm of the wilderness are his for the asking, for the edges of the wilderness lie close beside the beaten roads of the present travel.”
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.