As a young adult who traveled the country quite a bit, most of my perfect days in the outdoors were out West or in the Appalachians-hiking New Hampshire's Franconia Ridge on a clear day with panoramic views on all sides, scaling a Colorado peak, walking the Continental Divide in Glacier National Park amidst a profusion of wildflowers and tumbling cascades of water from melting snow. Increasingly, however, my perfect outings are in Florida. It is usually when humidity has fallen, bugs are sparse, and I've joined friends or family on a hiking or paddling trip. It could be cruising past limestone walls on the Suwannee, exploring the Keys, Ten Thousand Islands or Big Bend Coast, gliding through the wild canopy of the Wacissa Slave Canal or hiking Torreya State Park in spring with the scent of magnolia blossoms in the air.
Most recently, my perfect outing was in joining the Apalachicola RiverTrek for a couple of days in mid-October. Air was crisp, the river beautiful, current swift and the company outstanding. The group also raised more than $27,000 for the Apalachicola Riverkeeper and raised awareness about the plight of Apalachicola Bay, so it felt good to have a purpose, too.
As a young man, I had an elderly friend named Jerry Carter. I once asked him if he believed in God and he said he wasn't sure, but on a hike along a beautiful river, he felt eternally young. His statement captured the perfect outing feeling-no worries, no aches or irritations. Just beauty, camaraderie, clarity, and a youthful feeling. For me, that is a form of spirituality. A natural high. When camping, dreams seem more profound. The earth and water feels alive and I have a strong sense of gratitude.
Do those feelings last? How could they? We return to a world where work must be done, bills must be paid and all sorts of challenges confront us. Perfect outings are select windows. The feelings and sensations may return some day, but the exact circumstances will not. That's why they feel so special when they occur. We can carry part of them with us; they can help us through the not-so-good days. And their memories prompt us to plan the next adventure.