The outdoors is not just about hunting, fishing and trapping. In most cases it’s about being close to nature and its elements. The sounds, smells and colours of the forest around you have a very positive effect on most individuals. If you are patient and can take the time to slowly make your way through the bush, you might be in for a few pleasant surprises.
On one such occasion, when I was a “young buck” I attended a summer camp in the Canadian Rockies with a number of Aboriginal youth. For hiking, excitement and scenery, the mountains have it all.
One of our chosen activities during our stay at camp was to climb a mountain. We didn’t have the training to scale rock faces so we were instructed to take a trail up the easy way. That was fine with me; I always wanted to see what the world looked like from up on those big rocks.
I considered myself lucky to be going on that hike because, being my mischievous self, I was already in the counselors’ bad books. On the second day at camp I had decided to borrow another kid’s shirt, drape it over a cardboard box and use it as target practice. I had previously scouted out one of the camp counselors’ bow and arrows for the task. The shirt was to make my cowboy target look more authentic or I was inventing my version of the Arrow shirt.
Little did I know, but the boy who’s shirt I borrowed had previously fallen into the nearby mountain stream, almost froze himself and burned his running shoes down by putting them too close to the fire to dry out. To top it off, I was turning his wardrobe into a perfectly good fishing net. Let’s face it, the boy was having a bad day at the office, and I wasn’t helping.
We had started our trek up the path towards the mountain with a fair amount of gear for the trip. Lunch, extra clothing, first-aid kit and climbing rope for the few rough spots. The counselor did give some friendly advice before setting off: “Lindsay, I know what you’re like and I don’t want you pushing anyone off the mountain.”
I remember smiling and looking up at him and saying, “Who, me?” He looked down at me and said, “That’s what I was afraid of.” With that exchange we continued on our way out of camp towards the base of the mountain.
The counselor had led us about a mile from camp and we had already come across a wide number of different animal tracks. I had a feeling we were going to see some wildlife and to get even closer to the game. Just in case we had brought along some binoculars.
All the gang had walked for some time, listening to birds, stopping to smell the different mountain flowers and scoping out the odd elk in the clearing below us. We stopped to watch a black bear and cubs on the mountain across from where we were. I guess she pick up our scent though because she headed for greener pastures.
Some boys who were running ahead found a good spot to stop for lunch. It was up on a flat overlooking the valley, and in my opinion it was beautiful. The sun shining in the valley made the surroundings look like someone had just painted them. Add the scent of a soft mountain breeze and you’d think you were in God’s country.
Two of the boys were scoping down the hill for some time when I got curious and asked them what they were looking at. They told me that people down at the tipi camp they’d been watching were running around with nothing on. Well, I thought I would scope it out for myself and, sure enough, bare bottoms in the valley.
I wanted to see wildlife, but this is not what we had in mind. Everyone had a turn to view and comment on “Camp Moon.” It was unanimous: it was too cold to be running around in “them thar hills” with just a smile on your face. After a good laugh and funny remarks from the peanut gallery, we were on our way again.
The long walk to the top of the mountain was tiring and we needed a good rest when we arrived at the top. It was fairly flat with a few mountain shrubs scattered about, but the view was great. We could see the highway off in the distance and the cars looked like ants marching by.
It wasn’t long before I got itchy feet and needed an exploration fix. I asked a pal of mine if he wanted to find a place to throw some boulders off the mountain. He agreed, so we circled around behind the relaxing counselors and made our way over a knoll further up the peak to find a place to throw some rocks.
We found a good spot where we could see a long way down without having to get too close to the danger zone. At one point in our rock tumbling I tripped trying to “heave ho” an oversized rock over the edge and slid on my stomach to the edge of the cliff. Lucky for me, my quick-thinking buddy reached over and grabbed hold of my left foot. However, before he pulled me back, I received a glimpse of my first rock face. Let me tell you, 200 feet is a long way down when someone is only holding you by your ankle.
Needless to say, that was it for our rock throwing. Once my pulse returned to normal we headed back to hang out with the others who were already packing up to make the journey back down. I was lucky I had a friend with me or I could be writing this story from the spirit world.
The group spotted some more wildlife with a snow-white mountain sheep taking centre-stage. We even stopped and picked some wild flowers for the camp cook who was patiently waiting for our return.
All I have to do is remember and all the smells and sounds of the Canadian Rockies come back to me. It was nice to be able to hike around and watch nature at work. I not only learned a bit about the mountains, I also learned about myself. Who cares if we had to hum the theme from Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom all the way down the mountain. It was fun with the exception of my near sky-diving incident.
You don’t have to almost fall off a mountain like I did; all a person has to do is look in their own backyard. Plan for any situation, whether you go on a short walk or a week-long trip. There’s adventure all around you, if you take the time to look.
When going on long hikes invite a friend or friends to come along. It’s the safe way to go. Remember, share your experiences of the adventure and I’m sure everyone will be intrigued with your version of The Outdoorsman.