I believe in the treasures of the backcountry. As a member of our fast-growing, all-consuming race, I believe that wealth can be found in the world’s remote regions; that non-material riches can be procured within the green patches on the map and away from the tireless voracity of the mainstream.
Living in Denver and working in the television industry, my daily life is considerably ‘plugged-in.’ From my morning coffee to my evening news, I rush from one engagement to the next in a never-ending scramble to meet deadlines and pay bills. It has been like this ever since I moved to the Mile-High City over a decade ago, and yet, material riches have always eluded me here. Though I have no major possessions or investments to speak of, Denver is auspiciously close to quite a bit of pristine wilderness – and it is out there that I have consistently found limitless bounties.
It is as if my mind has become a bank for the sensory fortunes I have accumulated over my many ventures into the landscapes of the American West. I once awoke among sunflowers, surrounded by sand dunes, snow-tipped summits, and cerulean skies. On another trip, I camped on a flat boulder in the midst of the slumbering desert under the maroon glow of a harvest moon. Exploring a southwestern slot canyon, I saw shafts of sunlight turn contoured sandstone into the colors of dusk. I have stood below the walls of an ancient river gorge as a lightning storm painted them blue, and I have walked along alpine lakes and flowering meadows more vivid and vibrant than any impressionist painting. I have climbed to heights where peaks abound in all directions and crawled to depths where crystals glint in cavernous chambers.
And every time I returned to my city, I have felt wealthier for the gifts bestowed upon me by the wilds. I have come to realize that some treasures can never be possessed, but only earned through exposure and reaped by memory. The richness of crisp, mountain air or fragrant desert wind can only be inhaled. The ephemeral gold produced by autumn aspens can only be acquired by sight. And the precious clarity produced by summating a peak can only be claimed after serious investments in sweat, endurance, and belief.
I often hear the saying ‘he who dies with the most toys wins,’ but I have yet to grasp what is to be won by amassing stuff. The richest individuals I have met were wealthy with experiences, not possessions. And it is this sort of prosperity that I seek with every one of my excursions into the natural world.
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