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Learning to Seek Rest While Exploring the Outdoors

Making the most of your time in the wilderness doesn't have to entail over-filling your itinerary with things to do and see.

By: Chris MacMurray + Save to a List

For most of us, the opportunity to spend some quality time in the outdoors is a rare occurrence. And with the redundant routines of our jobs, careers, school, etc. it's no wonder why we cherish these special getaways so dearly. We wait months, and sometimes even years, in eager anticipation for our next trip; for the next opportunity to immerse ourselves into environments that might be the closest thing to heaven on earth.

A couple of months ago, my dad and I took a weekend trip to Glacier National Park. Prior to the trip, I had made a list of hikes that I needed to do during our time in the park. One of the hikes on my list was the trek to Iceberg Lake, which is 9.8 miles round-trip. Most visitors give themselves half of the day to enjoy and complete this trek. I, on the other hand, gave myself just under three hours to complete the hike. 

That afternoon, Glacier was expecting scattered thunder and lightning storms, yet I was insistent on trekking to Iceberg Lake during our stay in the park. My dad, on the other hand, wasn't up for trekking nearly ten miles that afternoon, given that we had already hiked six earlier that morning in the Many Glacier area. At 1:00 in the afternoon, I hiked the trail to Iceberg as quickly as I could only to be greeted by thick storm clouds hovering directly above the lake. It was already drizzling by the time I arrived, and the loud roaring of thunder overhead threatened an unforgiving downpour to come. And considering that Iceberg Lake sits at a little over 6,000 feet in elevation, the potential danger of lighting strikes increased all the more. In order to avoid the dangerous weather, I spent just five minutes taking pictures of the lake before literally running the five miles of trail back down to Many Glacier. 

As a result of hiking/running nearly ten miles, I only was able to spend five minutes up at Iceberg Lake--the one hike that I had looked forward to doing more than any other in Glacier National Park. Two things happened as a result of this: (1.) I sacrificed the opportunity to do other hikes, which would have been much more feasible and enjoyable given the time and weather conditions at play. (2.) I woke up the next morning (our last morning in the park) too fatigued to do any other hikes before we headed home that afternoon. 

Since then, I've learned a couple of valuable lessons about traveling and spending time in the outdoors. 

For one, I have recognized how easy it is to let the eagerness and excitement of exploring get the best of us. Often times, we handle the overwhelming excitement to explore by filling our glass to the brim, thinking that we need to finish it all before the trip's end. We convince ourselves that the only way to make the most our trip is to do and see everything there is to do and see. Which is a completely understandable mentality, considering that opting outside is an opportunity that most of us so rarely get to take advantage of. 

But is over-filling your schedule with the hope of seeing and doing as much as possible really the best way to ensure an enjoyable stay in the outdoors?

Recently, I've developed an intentionality for finding rest when in the wilderness. Rest can be defined in a variety of ways depending on who you are. For me, rest means making any given moment as unique and memorable as possible. I actually didn't develop my definition for rest until a recent trip I took with some friends to Yosemite. 

It was our first morning in the park, and we had driven up towards Glacier Point early on an overcast morning. About a quarter of a mile before the parking lot to Glacier Point, we parked on the side of the road to take some pictures of Half Dome. As we continuously clicked on our shudders, I glanced to my left and spotted a random dude sitting on a rock reading a book. At first, I couldn't understand why he would be reading when there was this spectacular view right in front of him to admire. But I realized that he was probably enjoying his time in the park much more than I was. There I was, rushing to take my pictures so that me and my friends could get on our way to the next sight, while this guy was taking his time, relishing and being present in the moment. It was such a simple thing to do in such an extraordinary place, and yet it's the unique things like reading a book up at a viewpoint, swimming at a waterfall, or having a dance party at your camp site that can make a trip all the more restful, and meaningful. 

Nowadays, I'm not as eager to cram my itinerary with things to do during my time in the outdoors. I'm not as worried about ensuring that I fill out my checklist. I've realized that simply being in the outdoors is a treat in itself, and it's easy to neglect that reality and set our standard for enjoyment higher than it needs to be. 

Next time you plan a trip, be intentional about finding rest. Discover what rest means for you; whether it's reading a book on the top of a mountain, climbing the summit of a peak, watching a sunset, or [ironically] spending all of your energy until you have nothing left, relish the moment and let it rejuvenate you.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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