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The Tiger

Time Outside: Why the wilderness?

Corey Glenn // Asst. News Editor

The view of Lake Jocassee and the foothills beyond with Paris Mountain in the background. This overlook is on the Wigington Memorial Highway, which connects SC-107 near Sloan Bridge to SC-130 (Whitewater Road) near the entrance to the Bad Creek Hydro Station, near the North Carolina border.

I recently took one of my favorite winter drives: up S.C. Route 107 from Walhalla to Bad Creek, then down Whitewater Road. While sitting at an overlook, I began to ponder.

Why do we go to the wilderness? Why do we yearn for the wind, the water and the wood? What is it about pine and laurel, rocky outcroppings and crashing creeks that hold so much appeal? What keeps drawing us back to Mother Nature, time after time?

We know that she doesn’t feel the same way about us. Nature harbors endless dangers. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my. There are dozens of ways for her to kill us, from snake bites to hypothermia. 

Perhaps then, it is the danger that draws us in. The adrenaline of jumping off the cliff, setting out into the dark woods and — despite all odds — overcoming and returning home. For the junkies of the outdoors, the climbers and kayakers and skiers, this certainly applies.  

But what then of the casuals, the people that drive right to the overlook? The ones that don’t even get out of their cars? There isn’t much adrenaline or sense of accomplishment that comes from walking a hundred yards to a waterfall, yet flocks return time after time to bask in the glory of the wilderness, even if they aren’t very far into it. A better explanation is required. 

Perhaps it is a reconnection with the old times, the old ways. The way our ancestors lived, moving through the land and living off it. The thrill of the hunt, the simple joys of fishing or sailing. The wonder of finding the remains of an old cabin in the woods or the delight of twisting up a mountain with the ancient roadbed dipping in and out of the modern highway.

But we don’t recreate the old ways. Hunters must follow strict fish and game rules, and most outsiders use incredibly high-tech gear, from Gore-Tex jackets to modern maps and GPS. Even bush crafters who attempt to return to the ways of old use the most modern steel in their tools. No, it must be something else.

 Perhaps it is the rawness, the authenticity of nature. In a world surrounded by screens, climate-controlled buildings and perfectly clean 90-degree angles, an escape to a land of the real, the unfiltered experience of nature holds deep appeal. To escape the hustle and bustle, the falseness of the world we inhabit.

But this too is not true. So many of us bring our lives into the backcountry, with the most modern equipment allowing us to stay in touch with our life back home. Many people go to the wilderness just to show how authentic they truly are, purely for the purpose of posting about it on social media. Sunset posts are probably the single most popular social media post. But they are still enjoying it, still getting some meaning out of the beauty that is Mother Nature.

Maybe then, it is a way to see beauty. By going into nature, breaking with the every day and embracing the new and exciting, we pierce the veil of mundanity that hangs over our everyday lives, allowing us to see the extraordinary in the ordinary. We can see the beauty of the babbling brook, feel the wonder of the wind whipping through the gap and feel the joy of gratitude for where we are and the series of extraordinary events that led us to be in this amazing place. 

We can carry this home with us too. I often find that after returning from a trip, I am more open to the wonder in my daily life, the small miracles that make up our existence, from the steam of a hot shower to the ecstasy of a burger with friends. 

I encourage you to do the same, loving the extraordinary wonderful world we live in, from the beauty of a Clemson sunset to the power of a high-rise, the longing call of a train horn, to the simple whine of the CATBus and the birds singing in the trees. See it all. Hear it all. Love it all. And be grateful.

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Corey Glenn
Corey Glenn, Asst. News Editor
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