You’ve seen the pictures on social media. You’ve heard the stories from friends or acquaintances or co-workers of great places and amazing sights. Somewhere and somehow, someone presented you with the idea of an adventure. I would define adventure as an event or span of time where one is able to behold something in wonder and marvel. Within that, there are many broad opportunities that may be overlooked.
But there’s a barrier, isn’t there?
It could be many things, but the ones that immediately come to mind are these: (1) Ability (2) Company (3) Equipment. I believe for the most part, there is one root that these 3 barriers grow out of: Belief. Let’s look at the sub-barriers, first.
This probably looks like: I don’t think I can do it. What if I get lost? I need to get in shape before I go hiking. I’m not very adventurous. I don’t know where to go.
Everybody’s abilities will be different, but that doesn’t mean adventure can’t be for everybody. An adventure can be as small as exploring the backyard with your kids, as easy as a scenic drive, and as difficult as you could imagine. An important part of going on an adventure is being honest about your abilities. We are not all going to be cave divers. We are not all going to summit the highest mountain on every continent. We are not all going to jump from the edge of space. Don’t buy into the lies of comparison. Not everything is for everyone, and you always have to weigh your priorities as far as what you can and can’t do, what you should and shouldn’t do.
If you are wanting to grow your abilities, some of the things you can do are learn how to read a topography map and learn basic navigation skills like how to read a compass with the map. When reading a map, try to match the map with what your senses are telling you (e.g. “I hear water, we must be near X”) What I did was pick one area to explore (Linville Gorge), and I studied the maps, learned the landmarks and trails, and then did my best to mentally match the paper to the place when I was actually there. Eventually, I was able to navigate there without a map. For areas I’m not so familiar with and off-trail excursions, I still use a map and compass and sometimes I use GPS for navigation.
Really, as far as ability goes, the best thing I can tell you is that nothing will prep you for hiking like hiking. Just get out there! Look on websites like All Trails or other local sites, and some trail that’s described as steep, and walk up it. I personally feel like Linville Gorge has put steel in my spine for most hikes. What trail could possibly be as much of a demoralizing grind as Pinch In Trail? After that, everything else seems like a pumpy cakewalk.
But if conditioning yourself for that strenuous trail doesn’t sound like it’s up your alley, the Blue Ridge Parkway offers amazing views from the car with several overlooks you can stop at. Or find a guidebook at a local outfitter for somewhere in your area, and find what sounds best for you.
Just don’t sell yourself short.
This probably looks like: I don’t have anyone to go with. Nobody invites me. I don’t want to be a burden on anyone.
One of the options I have drawn from in this area is social network hiking groups. It started with the bi-annual Gorge Rat Gathering organized at LinvilleGorge.net, where everyone on the forum is invited to “infest” the Gorge and join on hikes. Facebook has proven to actually be a social network with some of the groups I have joined there, like the Linville Gorge Facebook Group, Exploring Panthertown Valley, and though I haven’t participated, there’s been group activity at the Wilson Creek Facebook Group. Most people that participate in groups like these are more than willing to have new hiking buddies. One note is that not all hikes are for every ability, so you may get some ability and comfort level questions out of care for you so you aren’t thrown in the deep in of the pool, so to speak. There are typically hikes for every skill level.
If you read this blog at all, you may have noticed I recently began The SC Project, which is dedicated to exploring and discovering the wonders in South Carolina. I typically hike with an open invite.
This probably looks like: I don’t own any gear. I don’t have a tent. I don’t have the money for an adventure hobby.
Advertisers are at work, surely. Granted, you are likely to be more comfortable in a $200 ultralight inflatable air mattress than a $7 closed cell foam blue mattress. But you don’t have to have the expensive gear. We can’t all afford standup paddle boards, sea kayaks, carbon fiber mountain bikes, a full rack of trad climbing gear, or scuba equipment (let alone the ability to do all those things).
In all honesty, you don’t really need any of that for an adventure. Some of my best times have been base camping/car camping, and then dayhiking with nothing more gear wise than a water bottle and 1st aid kit. I’ve used that setup in difficult and scratchy off-trail terrain, too. It’s all in what you’re comfortable with.
If I was going to tell you to splurge on one thing, it’d be your shoes. What you wear on your feet can make or break your trip by giving you blisters, hot spots, smashed toes, etc. The soles of your footwear will also make a difference, depending on what you’re doing. But for dayhike adventures, which is what I mostly do, there’s nothing wrong with wear a pair of comfortable sneakers that you don’t mind dirtying up. You don’t have to have the expensive closet of gear to enjoy the outdoors.
What does all that stuff matter, though, if you don’t think you can do it? You have to believe you can do it. When I first started off, if someone had told me I was going to bike 30 miles on Greenville’s Swamp Rabbit Trail, or see 20 waterfalls in 20 miles of hiking at Panthertown, or I was going to bushwhack the Lower North Carolina Wall to the Sphinx in Linville Gorge, I probably wouldn’t have believed them. I started slow and small, and sometimes put myself in physically demanding situations. One of my methods for adventures has been to “throw myself into a hole so I have to get out of it.” You can walk 2 miles on a treadmill then get off. You hike in 2 miles, you have to hike out 2 miles (unless you’re hiking a loop). In Linville Gorge, it’s what goes down, must come up. I had always been against doing hard things, so this motto was my way of forcing myself to do hard things. I did what I believed I could do, and as I did, my belief grew. Feel like you need to be in shape? Walk a half mile. Then walk a mile. Then walk uphill a mile. You can do it.
In my recent hike to Moonshine Falls, it had been raining that morning. When I talked to my first time hiker friend in the morning, I gave him the option to call it off for rain. Nope. He wanted to go. You have to want to do it, and that will overcome many of the barriers in this post.
This is not the most articulate, well thought out, or gathered post. I just don’t want anyone to wish they were having an adventure but think they can’t. I’ll close with one final thought.
In the photo at the top of this page, my son Link is 2 years old. He has very little ability, a very small social circle (me, his mom, and his sister), and he doesn’t have any special gear. What is it that will allow him to have a grand adventure? He wants to do it. That is what it takes. You want to have an adventure.
If you’re looking for a light adventure, allow me to suggest you read a post of mine from a couple years ago: