Heilman: Solo adventures can be good for nature lovers | Local Sports

As fall fades and winter closes in, my thoughts turn to what the new year might bring.

This is fertile time for brainstorming.

Memories of recent successes mingle with musings of what could be next. Novel adventures take form. Long-simmering ideas get promoted to front-burner status.

Predictably, many or most of next year’s adventures will be solo missions.

There are several reasons for that, logistical and otherwise. But that is not to say I don’t enjoy going solo.

Quite the opposite.

For one thing, the sense of solitude is unparalleled. It can be a rare opportunity to tune everything out — especially other people — and tune into the sounds and rhythms of the natural world. There’s nothing like it if you do it right.

A few springs ago, I took a three-night canoe trip to the Boundary Waters in May. On the drive up, I noticed how much I talked to myself and sang along with the radio, and made a vow of silence for my time in the wilderness.

Following through with that was tougher than expected.

But I found that when my mouth was quieted, excess thoughts faded away, putting me more in touch with my surroundings than perhaps ever before.

Another reason I usually strike out on my own is that it affords great freedom in planning and executing trips. Outings I hope to take are often highly weather dependent, and come together (or fall apart) at the last minute.

Early last year, for instance, I went to the BWCA for an ice fishing/winter camping trip. The only reason I was able to do it was because overnight temperatures were predicted to stay above average for a couple nights.

It was a moving target, but I made a dash for it when the window opened.

In addition to dodging the cold deftly, the flexibility of a one-man show means the itinerary is all mine. I can do what I want, and not do what I don’t want. There’s no one to negotiate with, and no one to tell me they’re hungry or that their feet are freezing.

It is a refreshing change from regular life.

But that lack of companionship has its drawbacks. There is nobody to share the load, for example. Every bit of equipment, clothing and food must be lugged around by my own power.

Sometimes concessions must be made and useful gear left behind. There is also no chance to say “why don’t you set up the tent while I filter water,” or “I’ll fillet these fish while you get the fire going.”

Every task is mine alone, which leaves noticeably less spare time in a day.

Without other people, safety also assumes a larger role in both planning and execution. After all, room for error shrinks when you can’t send someone for help or ask them to find you a splint.

When headed far from civilization, I have rented satellite phones and emergency beacons, which bring some comfort to my wife and parents. Of course, it’s always better not to need rescuing in the first place.

Again, concessions dictate that plans for solo trips are crafted around safer routes and destinations.

In the end, a person can hedge their bets by controlling some variables, but one factor remains untamed: weather.

A couple of times early this year I was forced to cut ice fishing trips short because of impending snowstorms. The same thing happened in May when near-blizzard conditions descended on my turkey hunt in the Black Hills.

I also had to scrap some deer hunting plans this fall due to the snow and cold that came in the second week of the season.

But I don’t mind much. I’d rather leave early or even stay home than get stranded … or worse.

Extra cautiousness is simply part of the cost of doing business alone.

Another cost of being one’s own companion — which weighs heavily on some folks — is an emotional one. Wilderness ventures, or even temporary solitude, can induce a loneliness too heavy for some to bear. Anxiety can become unmanageable without the stability of partnerships, which could itself be unsafe.

Equally difficult can be the inability to share our very best feelings. It is a very human impulse to want to share mountaintop moments, wildlife encounters or a stunning sunset.

Many times I have thought, “my kids would have enjoyed that,” or “I wish my wife could have seen this.” It can create an emptiness that takes me out of the moment.

On the other hand, there is a special joy in experiencing something myself. Part of the allure of solo ventures is all the sights and sounds reserved for only me, things I do solely for myself and for my own fulfillment.

I feel no inherent need to share them; they serve to restore my sense of well being and help turn me back toward the challenges of modern life.

I believe the term for that these days is “self care,” not that it matters. Outdoors people have been good at it for generations.

Whatever you call it, it can be just what it takes to get through another year.

Roy Heilman is an outdoorsman, writer, musician, and ethnic Minnesotan. His adventures take him all over the map, but he’s always home at neveragoosechase.com.

Related Posts

Previous post Why Last Minute Travel Is The Best Way To Go: Deals And More
Next post Over 110 million Americans expected to travel for winter holidays, survey says