Making time for life sized adventures

Up on the plateau at Sacramento Riverbend.

This past weekend I went out for a little life-sized adventure to a place that is becoming a spring ritual for me. Following a community service event, I slung my backpack over my shoulders and headed out for a quick overnight trip. The hike is short – in fact, everyone else day hikes the area, while I tote 20 pounds of gear and food down the trail. I do it because I love to sleep outside and the snow in the mountains won’t melt for another 2 months.

I spent the late afternoon, after 6 hours sitting in lecture halls, hiking through grass and wildflowers in the blue oak savanna of Sacramento Riverbend. This time I took the high route, a longer walk than the riverside trail, full of sweeping views and small water pockets. I settled in for the night in the very same small camp site that I’ve stayed in 8 times in the last 3 years. It’s a place so well known to me that I don’t have to think much to prepare for another visit. The cloudy sky made for a delightful sunset, the crickets sang and on occasion I heard the cackle of wild turkeys. In the morning I made a simple breakfast with coffee, then under cloudy skies, hiked out to the car. It was quiet, simple, soothing and easy. A short little trip that fit just so into my calendar.

When I got home, I spent some time reading Alastair Humphreys, a British adventurer who rode his bike 46,000 miles around the world, walked across India, and was named the National Geographic Adventurer of the Year in 2012. Interestingly, he supports not only Grand Adventures, but also Micro Adventures (the titles of two of his books).

In the introduction to Grand Adventures, he shares that through his blog he asked people what kept them from heading out on the trips they dreamed of. From 2,000 responses he collected a list that includes things I would expect: time, money, having an adventure companion, getting time off work, fear, being lazy, lack of knowledge, putting together the trip kit or logistics. All understandable stuff.

Now here’s the interesting part. He follows up the list with this: “I found it fascinating that no one person mentioned the worry of falling down a crevasse or getting eaten by a tiger. The greatest obstacles to people’s adventures all lie before the journey even begins. In other words, getting to the start line is the hardest part.”

Getting to the start line is the hardest part.

That’s so true, whether I’m considering a big adventure or a short trip. It’s so easy to talk myself into believing that packing for a trip, figuring out a shuttle and having enough time just won’t work. It’s kept me from having adventures that I spent too much time dreaming about and not enough time living.

That’s why I make it a point to take a life-sized adventure as much as I can. I have a list of places that are under an hour’s drive away and a quick packing list so that I don’t have to think when the urge to sleep outside arises. I just pick a place from my list, load a pack and head out the door. This spring, as I wait for the snow in the mountains to melt, I’m looking for places in the lowlands where I can get outside and pitch a tent. As I find new places, I add them to my list, knowing that come next February, I’m going to be itching to sleep outside again.

It doesn’t matter that I’ve been to Riverbend 8 times in the past three years, or that I’ve hiked the trail so frequently that I can find my way to that campsite in the dark. Every night under the sky is fresh and new, each sunset its own creation, every day break its own unique meditation. Each spring, whether I’m under a blue sky or clouds, I enjoy the wildflowers, the mud on the trail, the quiet unfolding of oak trees unfurling their leaves.