I’m often asked about the joy I find outdoors, about getting dirty, even smelly at times, with my hair unruly and clothes a little raggedy. My response is that you’ll have to try it for yourself. The other question that seems inevitable, is, “How in the world does a black woman find joy in hiking and camping out in the wilderness all by herself?!”
For me, the outdoors has always been my respite. It’s where I find relief from the hustle and hassle of the all too familiar, busy, demanding world. My daily routine is just too routine. I’m preparing for work, working, or preparing for the angry commute back home. There is no drive or passion in that. So when my schedule allows, off the grid I go. More often than not, it’s just me, my backpack, and a good book. There is nothing more satisfying than to be off in the wilderness where I answer to no one but Mother Nature. How can anyone not relate to that?
I’m not one who hikes great distances. Usually I prefer to go no more than 10 miles. For me, it is not about the distance; it’s about the empowering nature of being out on my own. I gain so much confidence from simply wandering about taking in the sights and sounds that nature offers.
I love SUV camping, tents, cabins, and Yurts. I do it all, and I love it all. Often without even a destination in mind, I’ll hop in the car, hit the back-roads of Northern California, and just go. Sometimes a sign will catch my eye, and down that road I go. There are tons of camping spaces throughout the Bay Area, many of which are seldom visited, and a campground that belongs primarily just to you can offer the best experience.
My most recent visit to Burney Falls was one example of having a campground to myself. Prior to my visit, I reached out to Catherine Camp, president of the Interpretive Association at Burney Falls, and asked if she could arrange for a ranger to meet me at the park for a tour. Catherine was more than happy to work with me on my visit. She put me in touch with Interpretive specialist, Marlon Sloan who comped my campground space for the night and made himself available to tour me around the park.The campgrounds for the most part were vacant, except for a few RVs scattered here and there. I spent the night under the stars and fell asleep listening to the silence.
The beauty of the outdoors is really more of a feeling than anything else. There is hope and inspiration, solitude and envy, the desire to protect and keep out all trespassers who do not appreciate the sanctity of such a precious place.
So for everyone who continues to ask, “What’s the big deal?” I answer: give yourself a few hours, take a hike through a national or state park, find a place to be still, take in the sounds and the sights, and notice the calming effect. Gather your thoughts, seize those thoughts, know that in that very moment, Mother Nature is at work reminding you that life is more than the monetary things we chase. The beauty of that space will stay with you and beckon you back, simply because that is what our spirits yearn for, an awakening that our everyday lives take from us. Nature is replenishing, and that is what I desire for us all.