Field Notes

Wilder-Cred

A good day outdoors is the one that brings joy.

Leah Carlburg

I love to get outside. I started to say that I love adventure. But really, I do not love adventure as I will describe in this essay.

I love to smell the woods and feel the sun and rain. Adventures, in my mind, are what happens when things go a little bit awry. Getting outside is a short and ho-hum story. Adventure stories usually involve at least half a beer’s worth of time and saying, “No really, that happened!” at least once. Despite my best intentions, though, my friends and I seem to have a knack for getting ourselves into adventures when we get outside.

“You don’t need to start
skiing when you’re
2 years old or have
Norman Maclean teach
you to fly fish.”

We are not unencumbered 20-year-olds (God love ’em). We are not living out of a van. I dream of a tiny house but we would have to fill it with our skis and bikes and gear and live in a tent in the yard. We have jobs and families and lives. We do lots of adulting. Despite all of that, we work hard to make time to get outside.

One summer weekend, we went on a simple overnight backpacking trip. Sitting by a mountain lake, ringed by steep and jagged cliffs. We saw a moose across the lake! Beautiful, powerful, majestic AND far enough away. Magical. Until he started swimming. Across the lake. Toward us. Damn. We moved slowly but purposefully away from him and sought refuge a good stretch away. We contemplated packing up our tent and heading out. But the moose was between us and our tent. And then another moose came. And then they started fighting. You would think moose are not as scary as bears. For us, at that moment, you would be wrong. They have short tempers, dim eyesight, huge antlers, muscular bodies, and poor judgment. Like a nearsighted bodybuilder with poor coping skills off his antidepressants. Eventually, they wandered away and we went back to our tent. My friends say they didn’t sleep well. I wouldn’t know. I slept great. This is my one real talent.

A good friend of mine taught me the term “wilder-cred,” a sense of ownership and confidence in the outdoors. I used to think that wilder-cred was bestowed upon a person by other “worthy” people. It’s not. It is built. You build it yourself. No one else gets to decide who belongs doing what outdoors. You learn skills and gain confidence there, just like any other place in your life. You don’t need to start skiing when you’re 2 years old or have Norman Maclean teach you to fly fish. Read a book, take a class, find a friend and build on your skills. Then, give it a shot, with appropriate attention to safety. Especially moose avoidance.

It doesn’t matter what you look like, what you wear, what gear you have or don’t have. You belong outdoors. Alex Lowe, the late world-class mountain climber from Bozeman, said, “The best climber is the one having the most fun.” And he had wilder-cred coming out of his ears.

All of this to say, get outside. You don’t have to be young. It doesn’t have to be epic. It doesn’t have to be Instagrammable. You will probably not have an adventure, at least not one defined as something going haywire. You will probably have a lovely time, enjoying the wind and sky and trees. However, you might have an adventure. And if you do, pick up a beer and tell your friends all about it.

Leah (pictured in the middle above) lives and works in the beautiful Flathead Valley. She does a lot of adulting but would be glad to share more adventure stories if you buy her a beer.

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