Since joining Facebook a couple of years back, I’ve repeatedly run into kind of a generic post that circulates in outdoor groups. It reads something like this:
I want to hike (or fish or run trails or snowshoe) but I live in Dayton, Ohio (Or any other city on the whole North American Continent) and we don’t really have opportunities around here. Can anyone recommend a place I could travel to?
I generally hold back from advancing the kind of instinctive answer I’d like to post but it might go something like this:
Are you sure you don’t have opportunities? How much time have you spent with maps? How much leg work have you put in to determine that there really aren’t any opportunities? Are you sure that you haven’t just seen photos of the Colorado Rockies and crystal-clear glacial trout water and made this your vision of the great out-of-doors? What have you missed within two miles of your home? What opportunities exist there in Dayton that don’t in Vail or Aspen?
Talking with an older lady friend on the elevator this last week, we found that we had in common a childhood of moving around different states and provinces. And I mentioned how many people, upon hearing this, offer some sympathy because it must have certainly been rough to pick up and leave everything familiar including friends. But I never saw it that way, even though these moves brought me to such radically different environments as the north Maine woods and Nashville, Tennessee. I felt only excitement and anticipation – every move was an opportunity to expand my exploration and every new home offered outdoor experiences that I could never have imagined had I not gone and then, happily, put in the leg work.
I haven’t written much at all lately and that’s because I moved to a new part of western Pennsylvania (east of Pittsburgh from my former home to the north) last month. The community I’m in now is called Export, adjacent to the larger borough of Murrysville. Honestly, I’d never been attracted to the area. Murrysville seems to be kind of an extended shopping district where one might stop for gas on the way to central Pennsylvania and Export is a tiny former coal mining town, so typical of western Pennsylvania.
But there’s a stream called Turtle Creek that originates here and while it is heavily impacted by acid mine drainage, it’s recovering and there are fish to be discovered. Folks are developing the old rail line that ran alongside this flowage into a nice, flat rail trail and I’m able to rise early here and be on it within two minutes, on the days I’m too lazy for more mountainous trails. On the days I am ready for something more mountainous, I’ve bumbled into a woodland trail system here that I never would have imagined before I’d started to put in the map and leg work. The trails continue to expand as I run them but as of this morning, I count about eleven miles of main trail and countless spurs. Last night I sat out nearby till four AM, dangling baits in a creek for catfish. All was dark and quiet but for the peepers, owls and jumping fish – sylvan and nocturnal. I slept with my head on a mossy log till the rod bounced.
Would I have found any of it if I had started here in Export by asking all my Facebook friends where I can get away to a great outdoor experience? Does getting away to “perfect” places represent true outdoorsmanship?