The Itch: Call of the great outdoors

March 2017 Posted in Columnists & Opinion, Community

Kali-MartinIt’s the beginning of March. It’s been cold. Usually wet. We’ve seen our share of rain. Even snow this year. The sky is dark and gray, gray, gray, and the days have been short. It’s the time of year best suited for curling up in front of the fire with a good book, making comfort food and hunkering down. Which means of course, that all I can think about is getting outside.

Every year about this time, I come down with something I lovingly refer to as the “itch.” More accurately defined as constantly daydreaming about the sun on my face, the ocean breeze on my skin or the smell of the wet, Oregon forest all around me. The undeniable drive, need even, to be outdoors on some sort of adventure, exploring all this beautiful state has to offer me. It really starts to drive me crazy!

So I do what I can. I re-organize my fly boxes. Spend my Christmas money on new hiking boots. Watch videos on YouTube and documentaries on Netflix. Look at plane tickets to Alaska. Read fishing reports. Plot, plan and scheme. And when I run out of options, I order books online so I can at least live vicariously through someone else’s adventures.

One of the books I’ve been reading is How to Raise A Wild Child by Scott D. Sampson. Sampson talks about how kids spend very little time outdoors these days which has a negative effect on their physical and emotional well being, as well as the well being of the environment.

Unless kids spend time outside as they grow up, they make no connection to the outdoors and are far less inclined to work (or vote) to protect them. The book also talks about how you can help your kids connect with nature at each stage –  early childhood, middle childhood and adolescence – and gives a lot of good and practical ideas on how to do so.

I began reading the book primarily so I could find some good tips on how to best spend time outdoors with my little guy, but I was surprised how much I connected with Sampson’s stories of his own experiences outdoors as a child and what an impact it had on who he became.

I grew up in Eastern Washington, in what became a pretty classic suburban neighborhood. But when we first moved there, it was largely undeveloped, mostly a forest of pine trees, small meadows and even a little pond that looked straight out of The Little Mermaid. It was magical

Whether we were making gourmet meals in our rock kitchens, doing chores in our tree “houses” my dad had marked for us with spray paint, or making pancakes and coffee in the mud, my brothers and I spent hours upon hours outdoors. TV and movies were for rainy days and even if it was freezing cold, or the ground was covered in snow, I remember begging my Mom to let us out if we promised to bundle up.

We spent most of our weekends at Priest Lake in Idaho, at the foot of the Selkirk mountains. When we weren’t in the water, we were in the sand, and if for some reason the weather wasn’t cooperating, we’d head to the backcountry to hike Lookout Mountain or explore the natural water slides created by years and years of alpine runoff.

At the time, I took it all for granted and even complained about being forced to do things like go on hikes. As an adult I am blown away by how lucky I was. I am so thankful to my parents for providing me with such a bounty of opportunities to fall in love with the natural world.

Though I, like so many others, fell away from spending time outside when the adolescent years arrived, it’s been such a blessing to come back to it in adulthood. I feel most at peace and most myself when I’m outside. Heading out on a hike helps me clear my head, stepping into a river with a fly rod gives me perspective, travel and adventures with family make me feel so alive.

As he continues to grow, I can’t wait to share it all with my son.

Do you find yourself dreaming of the outdoors this time of year? What adventures do you have planned!? Big or small, get outside. While you’re at it, bring along someone you love.

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