This love of exploring has stayed with me into adulthood leading me on many incredible adventures. My brothers and I still get together on occasion to find and share in camping adventures, but there are more trips where I find I travel alone. Most often these are day trips hiking some of the trails throughout Michigan. But there are also some far reaching excursions stretching into many days or even longer.
When I was younger there were days I would see no one else on the trails. And when I did they were often hiking for the same reasons I did. I would also follow the hunting seasons and hike in areas where I wouldn’t be in the way. Over the last few years things have changed. Now I often share the more common trails with walkers, joggers, bicyclists and families. Many wear earphones listening to their music while exercising or talking with other family members in their group. It’s good though to see more people out on the trails.
While I was shown the world around me I was also taught to respect it. When learning the names of the plants and animals I would also learn the habits of the creatures that I might encounter while exploring. The excitement and wonder soon allowed me to overcome any fear I had of being in the wilds. There were risks no doubt but there is in anything we do and knowledge is the first step to putting those fears to rest.
As I grew and shared my adventures with friends and family I was often asked about what I saw and where I went. As my adventures grew so did the interest in them and soon I was asked about the gear I carried. What type of boots I wore, what kind of tent, packs and even the type of camera I preferred. Every part of my trips was asked about.
But the last few years something has changed. It seems people’s perspectives have changed. The questions have now been boiled down to pretty much two. The first is “What kind of gun do you carry?” Here is my answer to that one. I don’t carry a gun. I know there are risks involved in the type of activities I do. I could encounter everything from trips and falls to animals. Now after over forty years of making these trips I have had the opportunity to weigh these risks. For me carrying a gun isn’t something I consider. I have never owned a gun and for me I am not interested in owning one. This is my personal opinion and I hope it is something that others can respect. Just as I respect their right to carry a weapon if they so choose.
Many people are shocked that I don’t carry a gun but the wilderness is just as wild now as it was 40 years ago when I started to explore it. Though I run the risk of an animal encounter there isn’t a bear, wolf or cougar waiting behind every tree to grab me and really these types of encounters are very small. The risks I fear most are cuts and falls. A gun won’t stop a fall from happening. I hike now with my camera and a backpack containing more camera gear. I also carry water, rain gear and first aid equipment. I feel that I am prepared for the activities I am doing.
The second question I am asked is “What are your thoughts on Climate Change being real?” And my answer to this is - Yes I see Climate Change as a real concern. After all my time in the wilderness wandering I know that Climate Change is so much more then how cold or warm it is today. It is so much more than temperature and weather. Over the years I have noticed a change in the migratory patterns of some of the birds I’ve watched for. More species that should fly south for the winter were remaining in the area year round. They were finding food sources that would carry them through until spring. And trips north to some of my favorite areas I am seeing changes to the types of trees and plants. The boreal forests are being pushed further north and they were replaced with more temperate forest including invasive species. Many of the birds and animals of the boreal forests are also being pushed further north to smaller areas.
To say the Earth is too large for mankind to effect it is to ignore what we have done to it already. The wild places that I look for are growing smaller daily. I have been in parks that appear infinite in their size but it doesn’t take long to realize that they are surrounded by boundaries. And once you cross that boundary you find man waiting for you. Anywhere you go you can find some sign that someone was there before you. I have seen so much destruction in places that are said to be pristine that it saddens me. I only hope we realize the harm we are doing before it is too late.