Out There

The Three Rs of Being “Out There” 
By Alex Ainley 
Echo Lake from Echo Peak #3, Yosemite National Park
Echo Lake from Echo Peak #3, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio

I have spent the last seven hours inside my solo tent. There is an enormous storm blowing furiously outside. Wind is ripping at my tent almost rhythmically, pounding and snapping succeeding in testing her fortitude. I am nestled comfortably in my bag munching on some rustic kitchen hodgepodge of nuts, meats and dried berries in between brief albeit fitful naps. These thin nylon walls are my fortress, my protection from exposure to the powerful wind and cold. Hunkering down in my fortress provides me the opportunity for rest and reflection. This is the rugged side of life, the life without the warm creature comforts of home.

There is a separation in my life whereby I am provided with two different contexts:

1. Home: Couches, televisions, wifi, refrigerators, clean water, stove tops, electricity, etc.

2. Out There: Cold, wet, hungry, battery powered devices, snow, ice, rock, adventure, endurance, solitude and peace.

As much as I understand the desire to conform and live within the boundary of normal everyday life, I seem to be drawn heavily to the latter of these two contexts. But I believe I have a healthy perspective as far as finding a way for the two to coexist. Yet, I have nothing extraordinary to say about “Home” except that there are some great people that live there. I do, however, have something extraordinary to say about being “Out There”.

Inside my tent with the fury of the storm just inches away, I find myself trying to make sense of what the hell I’m doing up here. I have come to accept these thoughts as simply the bastard child of cabin fever. This bout with the aforementioned affliction is generally brief and usually remedied at the thought of what awaits me when the skies clear. It is this thought that charges me.

When the time comes and the storm passes, I zip open my tent to a world of frost and snow, a heavenly whiteness. The wind is reduced to a chilly alpine breeze and the sun begins to crest over the jagged ridges and peaks in the east, casting an orange glow on the walls of granite in the west. And for a moment, I think I hear angels singing.

The feeling is not something I can describe in a few paragraphs or present with a few grainy photographs. And when people ask me about these wild places, I often offer to show them rather than try and give them a piece of my experience as it’s just not the same. I think it’s much more personal than that. This feeling I’m talking about is one of unfettered happiness. It is, in my opinion, the purest form of positive energy. It shakes and rattles loose the hardened barnacles on your hull and puts a full wind in your sails.

I like to think about “Out There” as your chance to reflect, reset, return. The Three R’s if you will. Let me explain:

Reflect:

“Out There” the air isn’t close or suffocating. There are no blaring horns, or noxious fumes. The air is clear and quiet. You can breathe deeply and think with clarity about yourself and those you love. You can let your heart and mind wander uninterrupted, and it is in times like these that you discover some really powerful stuff about yourself.

Reset:

Being “Out There” affords you the opportunity to shed the weight of your regular life, and for a time forget the worries and the stresses. It allows you the peace and assuredness that there are bigger things than your problems. Bigger things like mountains, and trees, and storms. Your worries have no place here.

Return:

With any journey there is an end, a goal or destination. I heard it said once that, “some journeys answer questions that in the beginning, you never even thought to ask.” I believe this to the core. The time you spend reflecting “Out There” allows you to reset your life’s journey to one of clarity and purpose, so that upon your return you can live a more abundant life.

Alex Ainley is a 27 year old avid outdoorsman with 15 years of experience hiking, backpacking, climbing, and mountaineering. He grew up in the shadow of Yosemite National Park and now lives in San Diego, CA. He proudly serves his country as a Naval Reservist (AirCrewman). Currently, he is also a guide for Tran Sierra Xtreme Challenge and Grand Canyon Xtreme Challenge and is working toward training with YExplore to lead some trips in Yosemite.

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