The year 2018 encouraged me to follow new adventures. Like many people, I had made a New Year's resolution promise to change my life, but as June arrived, I had become hesitant to fulfill my promise. But I decided to pursue my commitments that year.
After months of composure, a few of my friends and I decided to take on the challenge of isolation within the wilderness from civilization. Despite the bravery of the challenge, we were forced to bring along survival equipment such as two compact tents, a propane stove, and sleeping bags. Our goal was a twenty-mile overnight adventure through a remote natural wilderness. We chose to complete our challenge at the Great Smoky Mountains, which was a 10-hour drive. An all-or-nothing approach to nature was truly the best way to understand the flourishing beauty of nature. I never realized how difficult it would be to excuse ourselves from civilization, but it affected my appreciation of the wilderness. Looking up at the night sky and observing the stretch of clusters of stars, with pure light, breathing in cold, crisp, and refined air, and no sight of humanity, only nature, is an inspiring and heart-warming experience. Often people become so obsessed with technology that they forget their origin. We left an environment controlled by technology, electricity, and plumbing in order to retreat to the wild. In the following weeks, constant storms worried us, but we were dedicated, even though we were distant from the land that we were familiar with. Due to a short navigational error, the starting point of our adventure was upon us. As the sun climbed over the vast hills, its brilliant rays marked the beginning of our journey. Nearby rivers and lakes seemed to be overflowing surrounded by fallen trees. The days however started to clear up as clouds swept away and brought a mild climate.
We began by exploring the top of a ravine with extreme excitement and anxiety, not knowing the difficulties that would threaten our unaccustomed bodies. Off our trail, we encountered one of the most amazing scenes of nature yet. Lakes in the distance were ponds, houses were pellets of wood, and the city nearby seemed to be a mere neighborhood compared to the extensive wilderness. I had never felt like a stranger passing through such beautiful terrain, despite glimpses I had seen on a previous family trip. We continued over peaks and valleys for hours, hoping we would read the midpoint before the dangers of the darkness covered us. The trail however seemed to relinquish within a creek surrounded by water and mounds of stone. As we hiked, we hoped that easier terrain would approach with strained muscles and sore feet. Exhausted, wet, and fatigued from the adventure outside our comfort zone, we decided to stop before the sunset for the evening. Quickly we delegated specific roles to establish our camp with the cooperation and loyalty of each man to do his job for our survival. Our friendship was one of the deepest and most trusting I’ve ever known. We placed our trust and faith on the line, knowing that everyone would do their set tasks independently and efficiently. Once the fire was lit and our meals were consumed, we observed the sky before us. The usual luminous lights we were used to were replaced by a sky displaying a heavenly light distant from us. I appreciated the clusters of stars in clouds that presented a dim glow. I was bewildered by the light that had taken millions of years to reach me. In complete silence, I heard a nearby stream flowing, reminding me of a faucet mistakenly left on, however, the stream was a part of nature’s cycle instead of someone’s neglect. Unfortunately, our night was spoiled by the sight of civilization we had attempted to evade. A kerosene can, empty bottles, wrappers, and filled trash bags were scattered on our natural landscape by careless adventurers. Too careless to even respect or recognize the magnificence of nature’s simplicity yet beautiful complexity. I had come from afar to appreciate the beauty and gain a perspective of wildlife with the purity of nature not to be reminded of the littered streets of the cities. As I proceed towards the stream, I stopped a fawn in the distance. His life is so simple, and his only concerns are to eat, drink, and reproduce. Live. Simple yet often lost in our world today. I wasn’t spotted but knew our species was determined only to dominate other organisms. I left the wet perch near the stream and noticed two bright yellow figures with worn-out clothes and empty expressions stalking the fawn. I didn’t seem to understand their muttering but knew their intentions. I realized the irony of being lured into the isolation of nature, yet also being reminded of our place as hunters and consumers of the world. Despite my puzzling feelings, I had to owe all my physical and mental strength to the group in order to reach our destinations before dusk of another day. After we broke our camp, we came upon that same stream where the fawn I had treasured disappeared along with the two bright yellow figures.
The next challenge was another steep climb, except this time it was different. My legs suffered every step and my heels throbbed with each move. I questioned my ability to complete the challenge, but the group motivated each other to persist, along the peak. A nearby lake appeared to our right, slowly twisting through the trees. For a second, I paused that thought about how thousands of people have navigated that lake, forgotten as we would be. When we noticed our shortage of food and water for the day, we realized that we had not made enough progress that we considered yesterday. Despite the pain, we took on one of the most physically and mentally challenging journeys of our lives eagerly. After consuming each morsel of food, we reached smaller hills. As we began to descend, my body experienced new pain, but I was confident and ignored the discomfort. Then the trail seemed to devolve into a cold stream of water where my boots were surrounded by water, not affecting me. The faint sight of pavement reminded us of the end of our expedition. We were victorious but torn that we had to return to the world we had left. We felt accomplished from the journey we went through to the hardships we suffered. We felt prouder than ever and gained a new perspective of nature as those two days forced us to tackle our limits of humanity. As usual, the sun set, and electric lights stretched across the road. For one last time, I admired the steep climbs and challenges we had conquered. Challenges that strained and stiffened every muscle in my body. The moment filled me with the excitement of returning for longer. Perhaps through isolation, I got to appreciate a much simpler and more beautiful environment that changed me.
Upon reflection, I realized what a beautiful planet we have yet so devastated by careless individuals. Changing my lifestyle for a few days and my lifestyle really demonstrated how much positivity was brought upon me by living off of such basic equipment. This journey, as a fulfillment of my New Year's resolution, made me realize how we need to change the way we live. As my friends and I appreciated the beautiful scenes of nature, I realized that if many of the ‘careless adventurers’ don't change now, our environment will be similar to those trash bags and empty bottles on the floor we had encountered. Preserving our environment will be the reason we can appreciate the beautiful vast wilderness and wildlife in the future.