When We Become Removed
Exploration is an inherent part of human nature. Pioneering, the urge to discover the unknown, is harbored in all of us to some degree. It’s why the American continents were settled, despite enormous hardships, and sometimes, failure to thrive. It’s why we dive into the deepest parts of the ocean and turn our eyes to distant planets. With global communications and rapid travel, it can become very difficult to find the new and unusual, unless you belong to the aero-space program or an oceanography discovery team. No matter where you plan your vacation, the services are alarmingly the same. All that changes is the landscape and climate.
Not only that, typical tourist designations are typically crowded. You spend a great deal of your time waiting in lines, listening to tourist guides and spending money on entertainment you could have received just a short distance from your home. The craving for the unknown just isn’t satisfied.
In our highly urbanized society, we feel very removed from natural surroundings. We sometimes even wonder what “natural” really is. Billboards, sidewalks, store fronts, even carefully cultivated parks and recreational facilities insulate us from a more natural environment. Speeding down a busy highway, our main preoccupation is in leaving one destination to arrive at another. We take very little time to observe earth’s natural beauty, until the day we take an off-ramp onto a country road.
Discovering the Country
That first right hand turn is startling in its difference. The pace is suddenly slower, quieter. The heat of the day is cooled by shade trees and soft, rolling hills. You enter small towns untouched and unconcerned with weighty worldly problems. You begin to see the cultural aspects of the region you’ve just entered. In most small towns, the people are very friendly and receptive to strangers. You might hear comments like, “we don’t get many visitors in these parts”, and a great deal of enthusiasm for talking about their favorite fishing holes and how to find them.
With that initial encounter, you’re hooked. The desire to find more and more out of the way places becomes an addiction. You begin trying a few off-roads. They delight you because you don’t know what to expect and never really expect what you see. Maybe you’ll find a tumble-down house that hasn’t been lived in for a hundred years, a sparkling brook, a meadow bright with wild flowers. The challenge of driving over the bumpy terrain is thrilling, and you begin to wonder just what you can do, how far you can go, how much endurance you really have. You’re ready for a long distance experience.
Once you’ve decided to travel off the beaten path for your next vacation, the hardest part is usually convincing your family, a buddy or significant other it will be fun. What can you possibly say to convince them? The first step would be taking them along on a few country road experiences, allow them to become comfortable with the slower pace and small town atmosphere. Take them to a few campgrounds so they can grow accustomed to the diversions of nature. Encourage their own sense of adventure by driving them down a few off-roads. When the cameras come out and they start snapping pictures, or they beg to find out what’s around the next bend, you’ll know they are hooked.
Some of the most spectacular scenery you’ll ever view can only be found on an off-road, in surroundings uninterrupted by human manipulation, development or engineering. Natural settings have a sense of timelessness to them. You feel neither old, nor young, pressured to retain appearances or obligated to keep tight schedules. Your mind flows with the rustling of breezes, the melody of clear water creeks, the murmur of waves lapping against the shore.
A few hobbies can intensify the off road experience, such as learning to identify the flora and fauna, or geological structures. If you are nimble, you might want to try a little rock climbing or rock hounding. Fishing becomes more pleasurable without the noise and hustle of nearby groups, and evenings around a campfire become a close bonding of shared storytelling, and if there is a musician among the gathering, a few songs.
Wildlife is all around us, but you rarely see it until you’ve left the crowds behind. Wild animals are shy and will run quickly from unusual noises, but on a quiet morning, you might spot a fox edging around to see who the new visitor is, or a deer moving cautiously through a stand of trees. The deeper into the wilderness you go, the more likely you’ll be able to spot the wild creatures. Most of them are very harmless. They are more afraid of you than you are of them.
When you go off-road, you are visiting nature at her best. Whale pods in the open ocean, mountain goats clamoring over high cliffs, deep ravines cut by natural erosion, the explosive remains of volcanic eruptions, impact the mind in a way going to zoos and watching video clips can never do. You become fully conscious of the craftsmanship and balance of nature, and get in touch with your natural self.
About the Author: Karla Fetrow is an experienced off-road driver tackling some of the toughest terrain in the U.S in Alaska on a daily basis. Having been raised in the remote areas of Alaska, it is common knowledge to the rural inhabitant that there are places you just can’t go without a Jeep, Jeep Wrangler or other sturdy off-road vehicle. Karla frequently writes on behalf of Extreme Terrain.