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The road less traveled

| Tuesday, October 24, 2017

“Ugh, do we have to?”

“It’s so boring!”

“Are we done yet?”

These were only a few of my complaints during my family’s stop at Yosemite National Park during the summer of 2012. At the time, hiking the outdoors wasn’t my ideal way to spend the valuable moments of freedom that summer provides. Maybe it was the allure of the pool, the basketball court or playing video games with my cousins — I can’t quite remember what I would have rather been doing, but I do remember I wasn’t the happiest of campers.

Growing up in Maryland, we had an extensive forest that was at the bottom of the hill in my backyard. The one rule was we had to stay in earshot of the house so Mom could call us in, although I definitely broke it a couple of times.

Deep down, I love being outside and exploring, and even though at times growing up I didn’t embrace it, I’ve always had an appreciation for nature. Even at my low point in Yosemite, it was pretty epic to watch the sun set on Half Dome every day, or to see the rock climbers trying to scale El Capitan without any harnesses.

The summer before my senior year of high school, I had the opportunity to do a service project at Nazareth Farm in rural West Virginia — an experience I’ll never forget. I think it was there where I once again realized the awesomeness of the tranquility and beauty of being surrounded by nature. And being on Long Island for more than the last 10 years, always being close to the ocean has definitely been a blessing. Camping out on the beach is definitely still one of my favorite ways to spend a summer night and, in the end, I’m glad I’ve matured from the whiney high school freshman into someone who really cherishes spending time in the wild.

This past week, I went down to northwestern North Carolina to do some rest and relaxation, as well as to hike. I got to experience Grandfather Mountain, one of the highest mountains in North Carolina, in a seven-mile adventure that quite honestly is the best hike I’ve ever been on. The incredible rock formations and ledges let me get right to the edge and look out on a breath-taking sea of green and fall colors. It was both peaceful and powerful, physical and sublime. At the end of the day, my feet were definitely tired, but my soul wasn’t.

There’s something metaphysical about the outdoors, in the way amazing natural scenes move us to the core. While it’s been a windy road for me to finally fully realize this, it’s a lesson I’m thankful I’ve learned. Experiencing the outdoors is as much about oneself as it is about nature; the connection is apparent whether you’re at the top of the mountain, standing among the redwoods or burying your feet in the sand. So for anyone wondering why someone would ever want to spend time in the wilderness without Wi-Fi, I recommend trying it for yourself.

Go in with an open mind, and you’ll end up a happy camper.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Tobias Hoonhout

Toby served as Managing Editor in the 2018-2019 term.

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