Mementos: What I Collect from My Outdoor Adventures

Why I started to collect and document all the places I have visited outdoors.

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July 11, 2017

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I simply love the outdoors. Being outside in nature is a massive passion of mine that I can never seem to suppress - though I don't try very hard. Whether I am taking in the mountain air at a stellar alpine lake or winding my way through a slot canyon in the barren desert, if I am engulfed in Mother Nature and all she has to offer, I am happy. I am also a photographer with serious wanderlust, so as you can imagine I take a lot of pictures on my adventures. 

However, I recently started to have an urge to collect something more than just photographs from the places I visit. I wanted something a little different. Something that would serve as a different reminder of the places I have been, experiences I have had, and my love of nature in addition to my photographs. 

I hemmed and hawed for several weeks, in anticipation of a big Memorial Day weekend trip to Great Basin National Park, trying to figure out what I should collect as mementos from my adventures. I asked myself: What does almost every outdoor destination have that is relatively inexpensive and small enough to collect a large quantity of over time? 

Attempting to think through this question logically, I concluded most every outdoor destination has a visitor center. Whether it is a national park, state park, wilderness area, national monument, etc., they all typically have a visitor center in one form or another. And all of these visitor centers typically have a gift shop of various shapes and sizes to accompany them, right? Right.

The next logical question was: What does each of these gift shops have that is again cost and size effective to warrant collecting who knows how many over time? At first I decided on stickers. Every visitor center gift shop has stickers. But then shorty thereafter, I decided on magnets. I had the idea to build a magnetic board to put them all on and hang as a display piece and reminder of all my outdoor adventures. 

One trip to Lowe's later, I had purchased a 24x36 inch magnetic piece of sheet metal, some framing wood, a plywood sheet, some screws and a can of wood stain. 

I took the plywood sheet and cut it about 4 inches wider and taller than the piece of sheet metal, to serve as a backing and provide a surface for the framing wood to attach to without drilling through the sheet metal. I then cut and stained the framing wood so that it would frame out the sheet metal when it was laid over the plywood backing. After the stain was dry, I laid down the plywood back, laid the sheet metal in the center, framed it in with the framing wood pieces and screwed the framing pieces into the plywood backing in order to hold it all together. I lastly attached a frame hanging wire to the rear of the piece in order to allow it to hang on the wall. 


When all was said and done, I had built a display board that I could attach magnets onto in order to provide a visual representation of all the places I have visited. As a bonus, I also figured out that if a particular place did not have a magnet that I particularly like, I could take a sticker I preferred that was around the same size as a magnet and put magnetic backing on it and it would serve the same purpose.

Overall, I loved the finished product. Now not only am I looking forward to more outdoor adventure in new places, but also collecting more magnets over time to put up and remind me of those exploits and my passion. Plus, the satisfaction of knowing I created this display piece with my own hands made the project all the more rewarding. I would recommend anyone who loves the outdoors and visiting its awesome destinations to collect something from everywhere you go, whether it's a magnet or a t-shirt, collect something as a reminder of that great adventure. Just remember do not take anything from Mother Nature herself - like rocks, pine cones, etc. - that only serves to harm her when we want to enjoy all she has to offer. 

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.