What is it about outdoor recreating that keeps us going back for more? Certain aspects are obvious - others are not. Fitness is a big component. Keeping healthy, fit and strong is a reason to recreate outdoors. Nature's landscapes stimulate the mind and senses. Textures of wind-sculpted snow, frost-heave structures in the mud and sandy loam, contrasting colors of lava and volcanic rock against the snowy back drop, native grasses and shrubs starting to come back to life, and wildlife springing alive after surviving winter's hardships are all photographed in our minds as we venture out. Sharing these experiences with like-minded friends is another reason we all crave outdoor adventure. Setting out and accomplishing goals of summits, special trail runs, or riding your first century on a road bike add to the experience.
All of these reasons and many more combine to create a Flow experience and this is why we are drawn to the outdoors. I stumbled upon a reference to a book last year while reading about the outdoor company Patagonia. The current CEO referred Flow in the workplace, as defined in a book by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. In his book, Flow, The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Mihaly writes about his research into those special moments in our lives when you feel like you are "in the zone." He reports on his research studying doctors, farmers, climbers and a wide variety of others while at work and at play. Ultimately, his definition of achieving a state of Flow in life, whether working or playing, is what happiness and success are all about.
According to Mihaly, "The best moments usually occur when a person's body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult or worthwhile." This sums up why Flow is easily attainable via outdoor recreation. Mihaly discusses how Flow results from having clearly defined goals for complex, mental or physical challenges with feedback on progress. Flow can be achieved in many different aspects of life, bringing harmony to your soul. When this occurs, time swiftly passes without any effort. Whether it's work, music, theatre, reading, sports, games, or more, Flow can be achieved. The experience is like picking out the song "Blackberry Blossom" on a mandolin the first time without making any mistakes. Like looking back at your powder turns vibrating across the mountain slopes, the harmoniously ringing notes leave a smile on your face.
A tremendous amount of satisfaction comes from the sights, sounds, and feelings one gets while enjoying the great outdoors. With an ever-expanding population, protecting and preserving wild places is increasingly difficult. It's important to continue asking tough questions. What is the best way to protect our natural landscapes and ecosystems? What are the most important lands to protect and why? How do we help protect the places where we seek solitude and adventure? How can we ensure future generations will be able to experience the same amazing lands that we are all experiencing today? Eco-company Patagonia emphasizes the link between wilderness and outdoor recreation saying in their current catalog, "We have to play - to remember what wilderness is and why we must honor it. We must let it live, and work for its survival as any kind of basis for our own."
In late February, Oregon senators Ron Wyden and Gordon Smith attempted to pass the Mount Hood Wilderness bill through the Senate. The bill would increase existing wilderness around Mt. Hood by nearly 125,000 acres as well as grant wild and scenic river protection to 80 additional miles of Oregon rivers. Oklahoma Republican Senator Tom Coburn objected to the unanimous approval of the bill in the Senate, creating a roadblock. Coburn's reasoning is yet to be disclosed. (See this week's Boot)
On a more positive note, Governor Ted Kulongoski expressed his interest in creating or expanding Oregon wilderness in a letter to the state's congressional delegation last week. The Badlands Wilderness just east of Bend is one area proposed for wilderness designation. More news on that next week.