Quiet. Actual quiet is nearly impossible to achieve. No Netflix, no music, just the sound of the forest.
This past summer, I went to a buddy’s wedding just outside of DC. It was as beautiful as it was hot. One of those sweltering humid summer days where you sweat standing still. Being a good friend and groomsman, I did my best to make sure I drank enough booze so that the bride and groom got their money’s worth for my price of admission. Consequently, this minor oversight made the drive to Shenandoah National Park misery. My car has no air conditioning so it was windows down the whole way. Thanks to the fine establishment of Waffle House for providing the hangover cure which made the windows down upper 90s trek bearable.
I love being in nature. It doesn’t have to be some secluded place accessible only to those with an SUV, even though my shit wagon SUV with no AC does fit the bill. Those few nights of camping under the stars and listening to owls call each other were unforgettable. Waking up in nature on top of a mountain is pretty rad. Even though a bear tried to get in our camp several times, I don’t blame the guy. My breakfast burrito game is solid and Smokey Jackson was trying to cop himself a picnic basket.
I’m lucky that many of my friends are outdoorsman. I wasn’t sure how I’d like camping but whether I liked it or not, my first real camping trip was memorable. We went to the highest point in the state, camped, hiked and watched the Perseid meteor shower. I got the itch and have since bought a ton of camping gear. I long for spring to break it in, to be out and away, even if it’s just for a few days.
I feel most at home in the woods. Travelling outside the Appalachian Mountains makes me feel vulnerable. I’m not sure how Midwesterners and their like live on flat ground. Seeing large expanses of flat nothingness gives me anxiety. Having the ability to retreat to the woods in 15 minutes is one of the reasons I haven’t moved elsewhere. There’s so much to see and do within a three hour radius. I can go the entire day without seeing another living soul, not that it would matter as those in the outdoor community are generally at worst indifferent and at best, kindred souls.
The other day, we got half a foot of snow. Rather than sit inside all day, me and the woman saddled up the dogs and headed for the hills. I picked a trail off the beaten path, one we’ve done countless times although in way nicer weather. It’s great having four distinct seasons. We were the first ones on the trail that day. The fresh powder cushioned any sound besides the crunch of the snow and the dog’s paws hitting the ground. In the distance, the owls hoot’d. It was something to stand in silence and listen to the symphony of the forest.
Over the last few years, I’ve coupled many of my destination wedding invitations with some form of camping and/or hiking. I’ve seen the Rocky’s, Shenandoah and the Wasatch Range to name a few. It’s nice to unplug and see somewhere else.
The great outdoors is the last frontier of what it is to be human. We as a people seem hell bent on fucking up nature which is a damn shame. I’m not here to persuade anyone because that means less woods for me but I definitely encourage everyone, especially if you’re in a rut, to go check out some woods. Don’t forget toilet paper, ask me how I know this.