Many of today’s outdoor, adventure magazines debate the idea that there are few or no places left on earth to discover. That the modern explorer has little or nothing to aspire to when compared to Columbus, Perry or Mallory is only a half-truth.
While the comparisons may be daunting indeed, I concede to the notion that we have everything in the world to discover. Our footsteps may tramp the trodden path of those before us, but we do not tramp the same path.
I remember my first night on the Appalachian Trail in central Pennsylvania. Surely, thousands of fellow trekkers made their literal mark prior to my own. But, they did not arrive at the same proverbial mark that I did.
In a sense, when I watched the morning sun softly shine through a stand of trees dropping their autumnal leaves, I discovered the beauty of that morning spent on that trail at that moment. No one before and no one after me will have the same discovery as I did.
Camped near the Kern River in the southern Sierra Nevada, I unzipped the tent and climbed out to ease the pressure on my urine-filled bladder. Looking up at the ink-black sky, I saw Orion for the first time as seen under the western sky of North America. This new Orion was a discovery in my life.
John Muir spoke with great reverence when the mighty sequoia was the topic of conversation. He pioneered a movement unforeseen, or undiscovered, in the early twentieth century of America. He discovered a truth in his life.
Did Muir discover the sequoia?
I remember when I first gazed upon the tree giants myself. I was immediately silenced. I had seen pictures. I had read articles. Still, nothing could have prepared me for the discovery of the sequoia itself. In my discovery, I learned how nature defines resilience.
Nature as teacher is more beneficial to us, and our future, than just nature as playground. When we go out on the trail, let us remember to take the time to learn the taxonomy of the flora and fauna and their respective roles in nature. Let us seek the understanding that we are students in nature’s classroom.
Additionally, today’s current trend towards personal happiness as portrayed in the numerous SUV commercials on TV is a social ill. The pursuit of pleasure through the conquering of Mother Nature at her expense is, indeed, a true rape of the world. It is little different than the rape carried out everyday by logging companies and smokestacks.
When on the trail, pause from time to time to experience the waiting discoveries that are all around you. Watch how the low-lying clouds give sustenance to the trees. Observe the wind blowing through a field of wildflowers. Take off your boots and feel the coolness of mountain stream water running between your toes.
It will be then that true discovery occurs.