Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 9
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Actively appreciating outdoors means more than owning gear

Illustration: Alex Bailey

Perhaps it is fitting that as I write this all I can think about is driving up Mill Creek Road, hiking up one of the hillsides, and getting up, away, outside and out of our Whitman bubble, free of my thesis that’s threatening to strangle me with my computer charger. That’s all it would take, 20 minute drive, and then I’d be there. Where? Outside. Away. On an adventure. It’s so easy to do; all it takes is walking out your back door.

We all have a friend, a car or a friend with a car. Nothing is stopping us from picking up and going, yet so many people never do. We’ll talk about it, talk about the great hikes we’ve gone on, the Scrambles, the guided tours of Mt. Fuji, but we don’t walk out our own back door. Why? Sure, we’re all too busy here at Whitman, but more importantly, we feel like we need a pass to the outdoors, limiting our enthusiasm to get outside at all. Being outdoorsy becomes almost an image, more than an everyday reality.

When I go into the climbing gym these days I need five forms of I.D. and a will and testament, and for many people, it’s the same for the outdoors. Too many people will never visit Harris Park and almost get bitten by a rattlesnake, or spook elk in Tiger Canyon because they don’t feel qualified to be there––because they think they don’t know how. I blame this on Patagonia and REI; on “boof,” “shred” and “crimp”; and on the false expertise of a certification card that fits nicely in your wallet.

We’re made to think we need all the gear, we feel left out when they don’t know the lingo, and definitely feel like a novice next to a WFR SWR AVI-1 Scramble leader. But none of this should stop anyone from walking out their back door. Even being limited in gear shouldn’t stop you. What you don’t have you can rent from the OP. You certainly don’t need the latest waterproof breathable survival suit with waste recycling and a solar powered jet pack when you could get by with a poncho.

Yet at Whitman, the prevalence of REI and Patagonia especially are blatant messages to the contrary. While they make great stuff, the consistently improving quality makes us think we can’t go without the newest, best item. It’s like you’re not a real outdoorsman until you’ve got enough Gore-tex to waterproof a whale. Gear alone does not make the outdoorsman (or woman), but it can certainly make us feel that way at times.

It’s kind of funny, perhaps ironic, but all too true. Being outdoorsy at Whitman isn’t really about doing outdoorsy things. Sure there are some hardcore enthusiasts, but for the most part, it’s about looking the part. Rocking North Face at the first sign of rain; dropping lingo like “shred,” or “crimp,” or “boof”; and getting certifications. Forget about the gear, the talk, and all the extra knowledge and just get outside. With weather like this, why not?

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