The great, freezing Outdoors


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You could say that ‘being an outdoors person’ has been a goal akin to wanting to be a ballerina for me. The people that carry a tent, food for five days and their dog on their back and camp in the wilderness, those who walk the entire Appalachian trail for months, rock climbers, surfers, anyone who does an extreme sport. People who don’t blink twice at pooping in a hole in the ground (I’ve only peed off the side of a sand dune in Morocco and I spent 15 minutes hyping myself up to walk over there to do so in the middle of the night, for fear that a sand coyote [is that a thing?] would run over and bite me in my privates mid-pee. Super hardcore of me). All these people fall into the same mythical, otherworldly, wildly impressive category of being an ‘outdoors person’. It’s a massive fuck you to the feebly earthly pleasures of city living – I see your Postmates taco and raise you hunting my own dinner in the pouring rain and somehow starting a fire (have you tried starting a fire? It’s an art).

Part of the reason that being an outdoors person never transitioned from an ‘I want’ into a ‘i do’ is because I don’t really surround myself with people who commit to it outside of the occasional hike via train. It’s hard to go hiking by yourself if your spirit animal is not Henry Thoreau and you’re the dictionary definition of an extrovert. I want to do what other people want to do, but I also want to be a badass in nature. This year I started scratching the lifelong itch and met people who were what 13 year old me would declare: nature badasses – I met Ian, who has been rock climbing for something like a decade (what was I doing a decade ago? Probably heating up an Easy Mac at this very second, ten years ago) and who also knows how to surf, and surfs regularly in New York somehow. He demolishes me at a sport that is supposed to be in my heritage. How do you even grow up on an island surrounded by water and only ever make it to the ‘tadpole’ class in primary school swimming lessons? You can ask me, but I don’t know how to respond. Ian was kind enough to take me along to a few indoor climbing sessions at The Cliffs in LIC, and I’ve finally out of the shaky territory of ‘what the fuck am I meant to do with that harness’. It turns out that being able to do a pull up translates surprisingly well to rock climbing.

The picture-perfect goal in my head of myself scaling El Capitan and pulling myself up away from death by my fingertips (while looking impeccable and hardly breaking a sweat) is still a while away – but just taking that first step of committing to an hour’s train ride with a stranger to a gym where my ‘fitness skills’ held no water brought me closer to my goal than just pretending like I would do it some other day in the distant future ever could. Some days It’s really hard for me to commit to an entire evening after work toiling at a new sport that is so foreign and unnatural to me, a sport where I still profoundly suck. I felt the same way when I started lifting, but since then, I’ve been able to consider myself an intermediate fitness person – most things don’t intimidate me anymore, and although challenging, are manageable. Learning a completely new activity like rock climbing has forced me to stare the fear of not being excellent, knowledgeable and on top in the eye and to accept and enjoy the process of being a complete and utter noob.

It’s a process.

How does all this relate to the images in this post? Hartley’s friends are also what I would consider hobbyist outdoorsmen – and it was they who overrode the voice in my head who immediately starts screeching whenever it’s slightly cold to go hiking in the middle of December. Camping trips, although preferable in warmer weather, is another activity that was great in theory but always seemed like too much effort.

We drove to Letchworth State Park, considered ‘the Grand Canyon of the East’. We didn’t exactly camp…we had cabins with working heat, but without running water. It’s amazing that the absence of an element that I never even spend a second thinking about is felt so deeply when you go without it for 48 hours. Running water, huh? What a trip.

Honestly, as cool and stoic as I want to be, hiking in the cold is not my favorite. A lot of the park was closed because of icy conditions – and it was really hard sometimes to enjoy the amazing waterfalls and trails the park had to offer while my nose felt like it was .2 seconds from shattering into a million pieces and it started raining. I want to go back in the Summer – they have hot air balloon rides in the Summer, and by then, maybe I’ll be the outdoors person I’ve always wanted to be – who would rather hike in freezing rain than read magazines about dogs in bed (what I am presently doing).

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