Learning to Love the Wild - a Guide for the Outdoor Averse
Love getting out in nature but still get a lil freaked out??
I took my 3-year-old daughter into a small wildlife sanctuary recently and was struck by how uncomfortable she was being in a wild space after we had spent the week in manicured parks.
It felt scary to her, the tangles of foliage, the spiny weeds, the coyotes and jack rabbits that darted into the shady hollows of unpruned trees. So we talked about it. We talked about what the made space different and what felt unpredictable about it.
And I realized that I too, used to feel that way in wild spaces. Before I had spent seasons hiking in the backcountry and remote ski touring in far off British Columbia, I really had no concept of just how freeing the wild could be...
Fall in love with nature. Right now. You were meant to.
Through all of the excursions, I also learned that there's a lot of things you can do to properly prepare yourself so you actually FEEL comfortable in wilderness spaces.
Here's a few tips for how to get wild without getting uncomfortable:
- Wear good shoes & loose clothing: there's no way around it, California plants can be scratchy. Ants can bite and dirt can be, well, dirty. So wear shoes that are comfortable and protect your feet. And wear clothes that move. Covering your skin and wearing something comfortable will help you feel more at home and less exposed to prickly's and predators (harmless scared fuzzy ones is what you will mainly see!).
- Look for Friendly Plants: look for plants with soft green foliage or big flowers and avoid the ones that are dry and scratchy. Like tumbleweeds, thistles and dry grasses. When you find a friendly looking plant, get to know it! Touch it, smell it, maybe sit by it for awhile. You may find that what you thought was a friendly plant actually has something you don't like about it so just decide it's not for you and move on to another.
- Timing is Everything: Choose a time of day when the lighting is soft. California sun can be harsh and glaring. Go out early or close to dusk. Or pick a day that's overcast or a little cloudy. It will be a lot easier on the eyes to take in your surroundings. And it will make you feel more comfortable in the space to not have to squint to see everything.
- Go Somewhere Undisturbed: Undisturbed habitats offer the best experiences. Places without construction in sight and with reduced to no highway or street noise. Places that haven't had any construction or building in decades - if not centuries. Yes, you will find you naturally feel more alert at first. Your ears will prick up, and you will want to look around more. This is natural and just how you feel while you are getting used to this type of surrounding. After a bit, you'll settle in and start to notice new things in new ways.
- Go slow & think about safety: don't take trails that are excessively steep or scale rock piles or cliffs if you are not experienced. Allow yourself to get a little lost and wanter without actually getting lost. Make sure you keep your bearings. Notice landmarks. And look back the way you came periodically
- Wildlife: do not approach wildlife. If it's not a predatory animal, sure take your time to get a photo but otherwise always just back away slowly...without actually turning your back. If it IS a predatory animal - a rattlesnake or bear - make a lot of loud noise and back away, back away, back away. This article is intended for beginners venturing into small wildlife spaces and nature parks. If you are in areas connected to big areas of backcountry, educate yourself more and always carry a knife.
- Bring an activity : you'll have more purpose if you're new to the wilderness if you bring something to do! Walk your dog, find a level place and do some light stretches, pack a snack and look for a good rock to sit on, learn about one plant, look for it in the landscape and take a picture.
- Be Firesafe & Clean: Finally, put out your smokes safely and DO NOT LITTER. Pack everything out you bring with you. That is how we keep our wild spaces wild. And if it's a hot day, don't leave anything glass angled on the ground (that can start fires too!).
- P.S. Bring water :D
Happy adventures new wilderness friends!