There aren’t any. Let me just get to the point. I don’t know of any perfect places.
The outdoors is what we make of it as we pursue our individual pursuits. If we read writers like Thoreau, Muir and Nessmuk, we come away from that writing with the definite perception that so much of what we see and experience depends on us and the way we choose to look at the world around ourselves.
Too often it seems I encounter outdoors people in search of those elusive perfect places they’ve heard of. As though all the world, all the woods and all the waters did not change constantly, die, flourish again and re-cycle. Rivers change their meanders and mountains erode into the valleys given time. It’s change that’s the constant and if we want the broad view, the big picture, we learn to appreciate all the stages of that change and not wish for perfect conditions in perfect places.
November is not a photogenic season for western Pennsylvania; this is generally accepted. But the water hasn’t stopped flowing, the plants have not died and animals age generally not dead either or even hibernating just yet. Again, it’s up to us to find what is good when we step into the forest. And perhaps it’s a challenge to those of us who do consider ourselves dedicated woods people: to go out and find the good in nature at the “worst” times – the bare, stark, wet and chilly times.
As a fisherman, this way of going about things has brought me to fish species I wouldn’t have expected in places no-one would have directed me to fish.
As a mushroom hunter, my horizons have been widened immeasurably by just taking walks in unfamiliar places.
As a photographer, opportunism has garnered me the best shots, whether or not I’m the best artist for capturing them.
My long hikes through the east were generally taken along paths no-one would have mentioned on social media and in hiking these, I took in a view of the eastern forests that was mine alone.
Join me this month and in the year ahead, taking a map in hand and seeking out new places – just places you really don’t know anything about – and finding what’s good there. You’ll always be surprised as your nature knowledge continues to evolve and you notice the things that are easily passed by without a remark: The changing bark of the trees, the evolution of fungi, the waterfowl that are here now but weren’t last week. Whatever your pace, you’ll be miles ahead of the fair-weather naturalists.