Tuesday, January 19, 2016

5 Personal Wilderness Experiences As Trying & Life-Affirming As Anything in 'The Revenant'

Over the weekend, the wife and I saw The Revenant. This decision was driven mostly by my love of Leo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy and a fondness for much of director Alejandro G. Inarritu’s back catalog. Set in 1823 (minor spoilers follow), the movie, which is quite good, tells the story of a wilderness guide named Hugh Glass who is horrifically mauled by a bear, witnesses his son die a tragic death and then is abandoned by his compatriots and left for dead. Glass, contrary to what his name might imply, doesn’t die. In fact, he sort of recovers and sets off after those who wronged him and his family, dead set on revenge. Along the way even more horrible stuff happens to him involving waterfalls and cliffs and the like. The movie runs about 2 ½ hours and really the only time Glass looks even remotely happy for that entire time, even while his son is alive, is when he’s catching snowflakes on his tongue with a new friend. This part doesn’t really turn out well either.
                Glass’ experience in the woods got me thinking about some of my own wilderness excursions. Now, sure. Old Hugh might have me beat a little bit in terms of what he endured out there. However, I’ve had a time or two out there as well, let me tell you. Consider the following: 

·         One time, many years ago, a friend and I went for a hike in the woods. The path was a complete circle, still along the way we joked about how long it was taking and how we’d probably end up lost and hiking to another state. That didn’t happen and, upon our return from this hike, we had no way of estimating how long we walked so we guessed ten miles. Looking back we may, may have broken ¾ of a mile. The following day we related this to experience to our classmates who promptly called BS on our estimation. We were crestfallen.
·         I went camping with two expert campers and a fellow novice. One of the experts spent the entirety of the first day talking down to us, the novices, to our faces and to everyone we met out in the woods. On the second day, I told him to take his campus, find south, and walk directly to hell. This remains my all-time greatest insult-spoken-to-another-person.
·         The wife and I went for a 4-mile hike on Black Friday of this past year. After a few hours and about 4 ½ miles, we finally consulted the GPS device I was using to track the walk and realized the path we were on was not, in fact, a complete circle and that it was never going to take us back to our car. Then, instead of turning around and following the difficult path back from whence we’d came, we elected to go with an easier, but significantly longer path. We eventually abandoned this path in favor of hopping across busy roads. All told, the four mile hike turned into a cool eleven plus miles. Lesson: Never assume your hiking partner has actually read the map before you begin.          
·         While I was unloading the car during a recent camping trip the wife and I took, I went to pull out a bit of wood we’d brought along to use for a fire – in case the pickings at the site were scarce – and some of it got jammed under my thumb nail. I spent most of the rest of the trip constantly picking at this, fearing more than once that my finger, nay hand, would require amputation.

·         Same trip, my wife’s car didn’t start when we went to leave. It took the kindness of two different sets of strangers to help set things straight. Hear that, Hugh? Our car wouldn’t start right away! We had to wait around for like an extra 20 minutes while a couple of strangers helped us. Kind of puts that whole “bear-mauling” into perspective, eh? We were inconvenienced. Moderately.  

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