Reconnecting to Outdoor Roots

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Maybe Country Music isn't your cup of sweet tea, but if you're old enough to remember when you stood in line to pay for gas, or recall the freshness of sheets just off the clothes line, then you need to listen to Miranda Lambert's latest hit, Automatic, on her new release, Platinum. Country music? Miranda Lambert? Huh?

Every time I hear it, I'm immediately whisked back to my childhood, when life was slower, simpler, carefree, and filled to overflowing with outdoor adventures. In the woods above our house. Or the creek below that ran through our little neighborhood. To a time when riding a bicycle was an all-day affair that involved everything except a helmet. Exploring. The wind in my hair. The greens and browns of summer trees flying by. That fishing pond where the bream outnumbered the mosquitos. When farmer's tans were the order of the day. Sunscreen didn't exist, but dreams did.

The hook of Automatic is powerfully simple, for it harkens back to life before the Internet, before cable television, before just about everything that keeps us cooped up inside these days. Life, wild and free, took place outdoors. Period. Hot. Cold. Wet. Dry. It didn't matter. It just didn't. Collecting Coke bottles to cash them in so we could buy a pack of baseball cards, or some fishing hooks. Building treehouses from whatever scraps of wood we could muster up, in order to have a headquarters from which to plan the aforementioned adventures. Wading in our creek, chasing after tadpoles, crawfish, and anything else that dared move while we were on the hunt.

Fast-forward four decades and it's no accident that I moved my children and me to Signal Mountain, and bought a house with a forest in the backyard, just a few hundred feet from a "secret" fishing pond. It doesn't require a PhD in Psychology to decipher the obvious: I wanted my son to have every single chance possible to taste the rich, fulfilling life I devoured way back when. Exploring. Fishing. Playing. Being. Thriving. Growing.

Every chance we get, my son—and sometimes my teenaged daughter—and I head out on the Cumberland Trail . We love arriving at mystical Mushroom Rock , or the breathtaking Julia Falls Overlook. He’s been down to the 225-foot swinging bridge that crosses North Suck Creek with me. Heck, I bet that, at 7 years old, he’s probably put in more trail miles than many adults we know. Don’t get me wrong, though! I Do. Not. Push. my children to get outdoors with me. I don’t. I lead by example, just like my mother did for me and my two younger brothers. In fact, the hike to Julia Falls Overlook was one she led us on back in the mid-70’s, which makes getting my own children out on that trail extraordinarily poignant for me.

How does your story go? Is it similar? Do you find yourself drifting back in time, hoping to recapture the bliss of the Good Old Days? If so, my strongest recommendation is to set aside time to get outdoors. Not working in the yard. Or playing golf. Or even at the beach. But the kind of outdoors that involves dirt, rocks, sticks, bug bites, and sweat. Sure, the gear you're likely to take with you has changed; what hasn't? But the reason for taking the adventure is basically the same: Because. Just because. Before you even get back home, your thoughts will be filled with planning the next adventure. And so on and so forth. So be careful, you might just forget what it's like to be automatic, and recapture something that will change you in ways you can't possibly imagine.

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