09 March 2013

Recently, I got to spend some time with an old friend who I hadn’t seen in a few years and I was struck by how much time he spends outdoors. 

We met when I was fresh out of college and I was a cub reporter for a magazine that covered live entertainment. Over the course of a few years, I frequently interviewed him. He was older and wiser and I always came away from our interviews with such respect for him and how he came up with innovative ideas in a business rooted in tradition. 

Even though years have passed without our being in contact, more than 20 years later, it’s always as if no time has gone by when we see each other. 

He got back in touch six years ago and a lot had changed for him: he’d made some business deals that had set him  for life after working really hard at a grueling job for a very long time. On this most recent visit, it seemed as if he’s gotten it down to a science:  now he spends his days golfing, fishing, horseback riding, clearing the timber on his land, skiing, and hunting (we don’t discuss that one much since I didn’t grow up in a hunting culture and don’t really understand that). He travels the world doing these things;  sometimes at top resorts, sometimes not. Having come from a life of modest means, he doesn't take any of it for granted. On this visit, he talked about how as much as he enjoys the luxury travels, that's only a small part of it for him. It's really being outside. 

I don’t have the means to do what he does, but our visit reminded me that I simply don’t spend enough time enjoying the natural beauty that is all around me and available to all of us. I grew up fishing with my dad, and proudly caught my first sun perch when I was six, but other than trout fishing with a few friends two summers ago, I hadn’t been in decades. I am a lousy skier no matter how hard I try (and am guaranteed to fall off the chairlift. At least I’ve perfected tucking and rolling to get out of the way), I’ve never golfed unless I get to count putt-putt. Hunting has absolutely no appeal to me (to put it mildly). I enjoy horseback riding for about half an hour before I’ve had enough, and I cleared enough land when I was growing up that I don’t ever need to do that again. 

But I do love to hike. So today, for the first time in probably two years, I hiked one of my favorite canyons in Los Angles. Though it’s rated as  moderate, it starts with a steep uphill climb that definitely gets my heart rate up. For folks who talk about how easy it is, I’d like to see what they consider hard (as long as they don’t force me to climb it). I used to love this path and it’s always been a great indicator of what kind of shape I’m in based on how quickly I can get up the first hill (and how winded I am) and how much of the trail I can run. Let’s just say I was very winded (although I never had to stop on that first hill) and there was no running today, but I did it. It was a beautiful day here and once my blisters heal (I seem to get them no matter which socks I wear), I would love to go again. I used to go every Saturday, so maybe I can get back into that habit. Supposedly, George Clooney lives in the neighborhood and while I've seen celebs on the trail, I've never seen him.

I really wish my parents had spent more time outdoors with me and had encouraged me to be more active. I have friends now who go on long hikes and bike rides with their children and that never happened with me. I was encouraged to excel academically rather than athletically and, like so many girls, once I got past puberty, I pretty much gave up all sports. 

The Conservation Fund primarily leads efforts to conserve land and has protected more than 7 million acres since its founding in 1985. But a good deal of its resources also go to Outdoor Nature, an initiative that helps introduce kids to nature adventures.  As public parks become more and more endangered due to budget cuts, the work the Conservation Fund does becomes all the more vital as it makes sure that future generations of kids will grow up hiking. I wish I had. 

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