My grandparents have this deck umbrella. It sits on their porch outside during the summer, and it’s covered with compass and map designs, as well as the phrase “The unseen land” in a bunch of different languages. The title of this article is one of those, and thanks to my mother forcing me to take latin for as long as I can remember I understood it, and it got me thinking. What a beautiful simplicity of speech that sums up so much of what many of us in this outdoor industry feel every time we go off trail and look for someplace new.
(Coming out of one of my favorite stretches on the eastern shore. Sure as hell not telling where it is though)
Not all of us have that call, and that’s fine. For some it’s enough to hike the trails and mountains that any have before us. It makes sense. A lot of the most captivating places in this world have hundreds of people through them every week, and in the case of places like Yellowstone or Niagra so much has been built around the majesty they embody that you may not even have to get out of your car. That kind of exploration has its place. Just because countless others have seen it, doesn’t mean it should stop you from experiencing it for yourself.
That’s not what some of us crave though. We long for that “Videntur in terra”. The corners of the map that haven’t been touched yet, we want to come back from the experience with something extra. Not just the ability to say “I’ve been there”, but the knowledge that we’ve found something that not everyone else will understand, and if they have the desire to know it, they’ll have to go out and find it for themselves.
If I’d been born a few centuries ago, I have no doubt I’d have been one of those who yearned to sail off the corners of the world, and I’m sure some of you who hike, canoe, climb and wander feel the same. There’s a sense of how small the world has gotten now that we can boot up out GPS whenever we get lost in a new city, or don’t know how to get to our next stop. There are ways of getting around this though. The North Maine woods is the freshest in my mind so I’ll use it as an example. In the time spent there we relied on Paul and Tim to show us tricks of navigation, and it could be stressful. If we didn’t see which branch of the river they’d taken we had to rely on ourselves and what we’d learned to choose which to take. It’s daunting when you might end up miles down the wrong route with no way to get in contact with anyone.
The payoff is worth it though. Not only did we feel confident that if we did get lost we could take care of ourselves in the woods, but the payoff of actually ending up in a pristine stretch of “terra” is something I can’t capture in words, but will try anyway. It wasn’t that we’d found something untouched entirely. It was the fact that we’d ended up at something so beautiful that most people had never heard of. Lake Millamagaset was one of these places. It’s not accessible by road. If you want to get there your options are to hike, be flown in by a small aquatic plane, or do as we did and paddle or pole upstream. It’s hard work in most cases. Any time you’re looking for something truly novel in the outdoors, you’re going to have the work cut out for you. All humans I think, feel the urge to experience what’s past the horizon. We don’t live in a world with many chances for that anymore. For the most part, that’s a good thing. We can learn fairly easily about the “strangers across the river” and with that comes
(Another advantage to wandering around off trail is the quiet beauty you can find)
Any time you’re looking for something truly novel in the outdoors, you’re going to have the work cut out for you. All humans I think, feel the urge to experience what’s past the horizon. We don’t live in a world with many chances for that anymore. For the most part, that’s a good thing. We can learn fairly easily about the “strangers across the river” and with that comes greater understanding of ourselves as human beings and all the different ways we’ve found to live. We don’t live in constant fear of some unknown entity or force of nature ripping the life we know in half at a moments notice. Sometimes though. Sometimes, and for some people they need that uncertainty. They ache for a chance to go out, and find someplace new. Someplace that we can (eventually? Never? Probably not?) come away from, return to civilization and say “Look at what I’ve found”. I don’t know about all of you, but I spend more time than is likely healthy wishing there were still places on our maps marked “videntur in terra”, and decorated with monsters. If only so I can head towards those corners, and come back reassuring all concerned that there are indeed NO monsters. Only a beautiful new thing or place to try and understand.