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Nature Is My Refuge

I had to escape, and back to the mountains I returned.

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For this week's Outside Guide, we asked local outdoors advocates to weigh in on the topic of sanctuary in the outdoors.

I chose to live, work and play in the outdoors a very long time ago. I took a brief detour into the asylum of the big city, only to be met by ever darkening clouds on the emotional horizon. From the darkness I had to escape, and back to the mountains I returned.

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The opportunities, experiences and memories found in the natural environs are what I figured would add up to a full life. Mountains, rivers, weather, flora and fauna have provided me with an unending fuel source, full of awe and inspiration, and in times of uncertainty, or duress, the outdoors acts as my refuge, my shelter and retreat. Climbing, skiing, hiking, biking, fishing, and gazing up at the stars act as an oasis from the daily rigors of life in our exponentially devolving modern times.

As the world has grown more complex, with more people traveling and moving to sights once held secret, the need to find grounding and the desire to refuel the soul has become more challenging. I do not seek a particular "pindrop" on the map for safe harbor. That is the key to my success. My sanctuary lies within, the safe place I can go to reconnect, recenter and rebuild. When I cannot access the outdoors directly, I use pictures and words from my photo images and journals to refresh the memories of experiences gone by. Sometimes the haven is as simple as a day casting dry flies to rising trout on one of our beloved streams, rivers or lakes. Regardless if I catch, the process of being on the water and the rhythm of the cast is a powerful tool for re-centering.

Often it's the easier moments that can make up for weeks of uneasiness. Cycling provides me with ample time to cleanse, as there are seemingly endless single track routes, gravel grinds and road loops to aid in processing all that collects in the dust bin of my mind. If I am out of ideas, I go to Trail Forks, MTB Project or Dirty Freehub for inspiration. At other times, the need to escape runs so deep that only the power of a multiday adventure can right the ship. With nearly 300,000 acres of Wilderness out the back door, truly getting away from it all, is well within my sanctuary range.

If I am to have a legacy or simply to be able pass on one kernel of wisdom, it would be to immerse oneself in the outdoors. Learn a craft and develop the necessary skills. Go out and explore. That is where you may find refuge.

"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where non intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar; I love not Man the less, but Nature more." - Lord Byron

—David Sword is a former ski professional and climbing guide who spends his free time seeking answers to life through skiing, cycling and traveling.

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