Links and Resources
Much of my earlier traveling was at government expense. I joined the military at a time when we were fighting wars in
interesting places and by volunteering for things other people wanted to avoid I got to see a larger part of the world.
Making friends in those places drew me back to them time after time, and also cut costs way down. Friends made sure I had
a place to stay and I put my money into food and fun times for everybody instead of into hotels and tours. I visited places
people normally do not go, including the Thai-Cambodian border during the Pol Pot days when people in that area were
disappearing regularly. I chuckle about it now, but I was less enthusiastic when my Army survival sergeant friend
explained to me where we had actually been that day. I’d have kept a lower profile had I known.
Most of the time I’ve stayed closer to home, exploring within a day’s drive of wherever I’ve lived and worked, and getting
to know regional things in detail instead of exotic places once. There’s much to be said for that kind of exploration, and it
compares well to the way people used to live, when nations on this continent measured about 25 or 50 miles across and for
the most part you spent your life there and knew every rock and every tree by name. Not by species name, but by personal
name, because on that intimate scale every bit of the landscape has meaning.
Coming to know a country on that level requires a lot of wandering through rough country, because all country is rough
country when you get down to details. Trails take you to the hot spots, not to the unusual places few people ever see.
Millions of people know Old Faithful, but only a dozen or so know Miller’s Cave or Haunt Hollow. From the road the Miller’s
Cave area might not look worth investigating, but on a cold winter’s night it’s a mystical place, terrifying because of a
strange illusion -- a dark bottomless pit that gives the impression it’s about to suck you into regions you’ll never escape. If
your guide takes you back the next day, you’ll all laugh, because it’s just a trick of the light and the bottomless pit is a
round stone circle with a flat bottom about two feet down from the rim. It’s still a wild and dangerous place if you approach
Anywhere you live, you’ll find places with unusual character if you spend time wandering and aren’t deterred by people
who think the world has little of interest in it. I live in new territory now, or at least it’s new to me, and I’ve only begun to
get to know it. Most people would think it’s silly to get out and explore by foot or by bike or by car in such an ordinary part
of the country. I don’t. Last Fall a friend and I went for a short walk on a nature trail near here, and just happened to hit it
on exactly the right day and the right time. All the leaves had turned color but few had fallen, and just as we reached the
wooden platform that overlooks the hollow the wind of an approaching storm filled the air with torrents and twisters of
falling leaves. Only a few people were there, and everyone was hypnotised by what we saw. It was just an ordinary place,
but for a half hour that day it was equal to the Grand Canyon at its best.
Get out. Explore. Make friends with wherever it is that you live and you’ll find enough riches to make a lifetime in a tiny
country a miraculous experience. People miss most of the good stuff by just driving past it.
The Humble Wilderness
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Hitting the Road to the Modern Wilderness
If you visit only the most famous
places you'll find plenty of crowds, but
there's a lot of remote country people
skip just because it's not well known.
Don't tell anyone you found it unless
you want more company.
There are people who can
afford to go anywhere and
travel to exotic places that all of us
have read about in books and most
of us wish we could actually see.
But most people are like me, bitten
by the travel bug yet encumbered
with ordinary things. I’d like to
walk the Grand Canyon, but
probably never will, because it
takes a lot of time and money to do
that. My monies always go to
taking care of things at home, and
when someone tells me that I
should just save up six months
worth of income and go walk the
Grand Canyon, I give them a funny
look and drop the subject. Me
saving six months worth of income
isn’t going to happen. That’s a fact I
live with, and I get my traveling in
by using other methods.
More than 30,000 acres of open prairie and wetlands -- the Black Kettle. Antelope Hills
photo by Richmassena at Wikipedia; CC 2.5