Getting out into nature (again)

The beginning of summer has always been a period of excitement for me. The anticipation of what outdoors trips I will take and what new mountains, lakes, rivers, trails and campgrounds I will discover has been a motivating factor to do one of the things I love to do the most in life: get outside and explore nature.

But since my injury, all of this has taken a new meaning. Backpacking on remote trails and high mountain passes have had to take a backseat to my full-time schedule of recovery with the intention and hope to be able to get back out onto those trails one day. Camping weekends are harder to pull off and take more advanced planning when I don’t have the same freedom to dig up all of my gear by myself, pack up the car and hit the road, and have faith that I will work everything out somehow. Spontaneity is difficult to come by since I always need to ensure that I’m not forgetting the many things I need to get through each day, not to mention how to manage my exercise and physical challenges when I’m outside of my usual surroundings.

So far, I would say I’ve made a pretty solid attempt at getting out into nature as much as possible. I’ve gone camping numerous times and reminded myself of that magical, nostalgic smell of a nylon tent, sleeping bag and the surrounding trees. I’ve cross-country skied and made it a few miles out from the nearest parking lot or paved road. And I’ve off-roaded onto some dirt trails (with some pushing help) and challenged the integrity of the wheelchair tires. But none of that has compared to the joy of exploring nature in the water.

As part of my training for working up to a 6-mile swim in September, I’ve become more and more comfortable spending long periods of time in various bodies of water, especially lakes. On a recent trip to Minnesota, to celebrate Brita’s brother’s wedding, we had the fortune of staying at a house that was on one of the state’s 10,000 lakes (it’s not hyperbole, there really are lakes everywhere) and of course, we jumped in and swam around for over an hour each day.

IMG_2188It wasn’t just the bright, translucent, blue water and its perfect temperature (just cool enough to be refreshing but comfortable enough to stay in for a while) or the serenity of the trees and lush green surrounding the lake that I enjoyed, it was the moment of popping my head out of the water and realizing that I was IN nature. I wasn’t a passive observer of the beauty around me, I was an active participant, literally in it. And while it wasn’t as remote as it used to be when I could hike for miles in miles in the mountains, it felt just as profound.

I’m grateful for the fact that Brita has always been a swimmer and thus needs no convincing me from me to get into water. And because we are limited in what physical activities we can fully do together, not only have these swimming adventures fulfilled some of our instincts for nature, but they’ve also allowed us to have another way to spend time together and enjoy each other’s company.

So get out there and enjoy the incredible awesomeness of the outdoors and remember that there can always be new ways to connect with nature and fulfill whatever inner instinct you may have.

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16 thoughts on “Getting out into nature (again)

  1. hey Arash—was thinking about you today, had coffee with Randall Wood, talked about you and Chuck…great video…all our girls (now 21, 19 and 18) are swimmers, love it all. I was born in Minnesota, grandparents had a small home on Gull Lake near (I think) Brainerd (sp)….was there as a kid, probably 6 or 8…remembered catching my first fish, had to clean it and eat it…oh well…so good to hear from you, I read every post and wish you and Brita all the best…dan

    1. That’s great Dan! I was just in Brainerd and drove right by Gull lake! Small world. Great to hear from you and best to you and your family. -AB

  2. Ah, so many memories of swimming in the lakes of MN as a kid. I’m missing my family’s 4th of July celebrations at the lake cabin.
    Instead, I’m headed to our cabin on Pinecrest lake and am bringing the wetsuit so I can do swim open water training.
    Looking forward to swimming with you in September (albeit in a much colder lake)!

    1. Awesome dude! So glad you’re getting out there and swimming in the open water. Looking forward to swimming with you too. Gotta make it out to Pinecrest sometime soon… -AB

  3. I really enjoyed this post because it was great to see you wrapping your mind, heart, and soul around peace. So glad that you are able to get that with the outdoors and that you can love it just as much as before, just with a few adjustments! Happy Summer! Denise

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