Learning to appreciate local trails for today and tomorrow

Going on adventures might be on hold right now but nothing is stopping us from planning them. We can’t pick exact dates or start packing, but we can daydream about where we want to go. We can learn to appreciate small adventures as we explore local trails that we once drove past on the way to the next iconic spot.

I hope, like everyone does, that there is a silver lining or important lesson to be learned from the current crisis. I hope that some good will come of the experiences. Maybe we’ll learn to have more empathy and compassion. 

Or we’ll get better at keeping in touch with our loved ones. Maybe, beyond the shame and judgement, we’ll learn to love a little better. And perhaps another lesson is one of gratitude. Gratitude is always another lesson.

I am grateful that I live in a community that values open space and recreation. I am also realizing all the things that I take for granted. As I stare at photos from my travels, I appreciate them more now that I’m stuck at home.

Toroweep Overlook
Toroweep Overlook, Grand Canyon National Park: Who knew it was possible to have the Grand Canyon all to yourself?Marc Bergreen
Bringing the Outdoors In

Despite how scary and depressing paying attention to the news can be right now, I have enjoyed experiencing the passion and joy shared within the outdoor community. One thing is for sure, when we can’t go on an adventure, we can talk about our love of adventure. We can share stories of our favorite places and find ways to bring the outdoors in. 

Creative energy is being released in the form of photos, essays, and more. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out why Search and Rescue Groups Urge People to Stop Climbing Cabinetry During Pandemic. Or watch Philipp Klein Freeride Skiing at Home

These creations are much better ways to encourage me to #stayathome than shame or judgement. None of us want to stay home, we’re all itching to travel.

“If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine. It’s lethal!” – Paulo Coelho

Finding Sanity on Local Trails

We are all doing our best to hold onto our sanity while wondering about the future. Going for walks and getting fresh air is just as important as ever, we just have to be smart about it. There have always been risks, the risks are just different now.

As we hold on to what remains of our sanity and try to find out the best way to continue to do the things we love, parks and open spaces threaten to close due to crowds. But crowds aren’t a new problem, they are just a different kind of problem now. Crowds were once an inconvenience and threat to the environment, now they are potentially dangerous to our health. So we stay local, we go out during off-peak hours, and we’re extra cautious about passing groups on narrow trails.

And, maybe like me, you’re discovering the beauty and simplicity of a local trail. The view might not be as iconic or instagram worthy, but it certainly makes you smile. It’s a different kind of adventure.

Iconic Locations vs First Ascents
Chaco Canyon
Chaco Canyon: This National Park is only accessed by a rough dirt road, a fact that may result in less visitors but doesn’t diminish that big impact Chaco Canyon had on us.Marc Bergreen

Once all the more obvious peaks had been climbed, if an explorer wanted a first ascent they had to find a more obscure mountain or a less obvious route. How many amazing climbs were birthed from the desire to find something new? How grateful are we that someone took the road less traveled?

When I think back on some of my favorite adventures, they haven’t always been to the most iconic locations. Usually, they were when I found my own path or found complete solitude. Sharing experiences with our friends is amazing, as is sitting quietly and listening to the wind.

Updated advice derived from a quote in Edward Abbey’s book Desert Solitaire, “May your trails be crooked, winding, LONESOME, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.”

Examining Our Motivations

As I think about my excel document that lists the places I want to go or my google map that has pins dropped across the globe, there are two main things that call me. One of my motivations is predictable: I want to see some of the beautiful places I have seen in pictures. I know that I will be one of a hundred photographers lined up in a row waiting for the perfect light for the perfect photo. And I know that these crowds often lead to more fences and rules in order to attempt to preserve these locations. 

Therefore, the second thing that motivates me is a desire to discover more about a place that is unknown. I have places on my list that I know will allow me to wander free and alone.

When I think back on my favorite trips, visiting the iconic places is always breathtaking. They are world wonders for a reason. They are the types of places that fuel passion for the outdoors and a lifelong connection with nature. 

West Rim Trail
West Rim Trail: Sunset in the backcountry of Zion National Park. If you’re willing to do a little extra work, you can get away from the crowds even in popular National Parks like Zion.Marc Bergreen

However, visiting secluded and obscure places that are still wild and untouched is a whole different experience. Standing alone in some magnificent place gives me a sense of discovery. Pulling off on the side of the road and exploring whatever comes along your path is a personal treat that is often better than having unreasonable expectations for the “best view in the world.”

Looking to Tomorrow

I don’t know what the future holds or when it will be safe to travel again. I do know that as much as I love seeing the top 10 views in the world, I also love getting to know the trees and birds in my own backyard. Maybe this new perspective of avoiding crowds for health reasons will teach us to find beauty in the unknown or yet to be discovered. Maybe spreading out a little will reduce our impact on the places we love.

BRENDA BERGREEN is a storyteller and photographer living in Evergreen, Colorado, with her husband and adventure partner, Marc Bergreen. She is currently staying at home using creativity and walks with her family to stay sane until we can head out on adventures again. For more from the Bergreens visit www.bergreenphotography.com and www.thebergreens.com.