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What Drives You to Explore More?

Learning. Connecting. Experiencing. Those are the reasons I explore and the reasons why I’m always thinking about my next trip.

By: Patrick James + Save to a List

It’s October 4th, 2015. We’re stuck in a 4-season Mountain Hardwear tent, hoping the torrential rain that we’ve endured over the past three days clears up before we get any further into a nine day outdoor adventure that we planned months ago. Keith hadn’t been to North Carolina in over a year, and I imagine this wasn’t the best weather to drive into after 20 hours on the road from Texas. The conditions were less than ideal, but we kept reminding each other of the saying “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear…”, which was somehow comforting in the midst of the apparent monsoon season outside of Asheville, NC. The rain continued over the next couple of days, but decided to clear up in time for us to spend the last few days dry and free of rain flys, rain jackets and rain pants. We could probably list a thousand reasons why we were in that situation, but the only one that really mattered was that it’s what we wanted to be doing.

That’s one of the many experiences I had in the mountains in 2015. Over the years, my life has grown and evolved into a never ending cycle of trip planning, trip execution and unofficial reviews of those trips (which basically consists of me repeatedly saying something along the lines of “it was sick, but wasn’t long enough”). Planning trips has been a recurring theme in my life for several years now. I’ve slept outside in the high desert of New Mexico, camped in deep snow in the Wheeler Peak Wilderness, backpacked through the Gila Wilderness, put one foot in front of the other in Guadalupe Mountains National Park (shh…it might be the best kept secret for outdoor enthusiasts in Texas) and spent more time than imaginable in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. My list of places to visit and things that I want to do in those places is a living, breathing thing. It knows no boundaries, and is constantly growing as I learn about new places and formulate new ideas. Now that it’s 2016…it’s time to start figuring out which trips I’m going to make happen this year.

My adventure bucket list is full of things like wanting to put my feet on the ground in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains, experiencing the Tetons change from brightly colored leaves to snow covering everything and how badly I want to see the sunrise from Horseshoe Bend, Arizona. As much as I would love to talk about those places, I think there’s a broader and deeper conversation to be had in regards to new experiences in the outdoors, and why we’re constantly searching for something new.

I could be wrong, but I think it’s safe to say that progression is an integral piece of human nature. Whether we’re trying to progress as runners, climbers, in our careers or relationships…chances are, we’re all in pursuit of something. Progress happens as a result of combining what you’ve learned with effort and a goal. Personally, I learn best from doing. I may pick up on things from seeing and hearing, but experiencing it myself is ideal. I feel like that idea translates into adventure and travel as well. I learn something new every time I’m in the wild. I’ve learned to respect the weather, the land and the animals whose home I’m visiting. I’ve learned to prepare for the trail ahead of me…and to not underestimate it’s challenges. I’ve learned more from those experiences than I do from watching survival shows, reading blogs and magazines…and definitely more than I learned in school.

I’ve found familiar themes all over our country. In a way, I look at exploring new places as a giant opportunity to connect the dots. At times, the different regions of our country are polar opposites (the way we talk, the food we eat, the land we live on, etc.), but mountains have this way of being the ultimate equalizer. What I’m getting at is, the way it feels to scramble up a mountain into elevations higher than you’re used to is basically the same everywhere…regardless of whether you’re in the Great Smoky Mountains, the Rocky Mountains, the Brooks Range or anywhere else. Your quads burn, your lungs hurt and you might be light headed…the severity of these things may change based off the specifics of where you are and what you’re doing, but when it comes down to it, the root feeling is the same.

Learning. Connecting. Experiencing. Those are the reasons I explore and the reasons why I’m always thinking about my next trip. Whether I’m learning from nature, connecting with like-minded people or experiencing that feeling that only comes out when I’m pushing myself…those are the driving forces behind long drives, steep hikes and my never-ending curiosity for finding new places. If you have something that makes you feel the way I feel about exploring, I’d like to know what it is. What’s your ‘One Thing’?

Thanks for following along!


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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