site logo

What the Outdoor World Can Do for Girls.

Categories: I Trailing

There is a something in you, as in every one, every man, woman, girl,

and boy, that requires the tonic life of the wild. You may not know it,

many do not, but there is a part of your nature that only the wild can

reach, satisfy, and develop. The much-housed, overheated, overdressed,

and over-entertained life of most girls is artificial, and if one does

not turn away from and leave it for a while, one also becomes greatly

> artificial and must go through life not knowing the joy, the strength,

the poise that real outdoor life can give.

What is it about a true woodsman that instantly compels our respect,

that sets him apart from the men who might be of his class in village or

town and puts him in a class by himself, though he may be exteriorly

rough and have little or no book education? The real Adirondack or the

North Woods guide, alert, clean-limbed, clear-eyed, hard-muscled,

bearing his pack-basket or duffel-bag on his back, doing all the hard

work of the camp, never loses his poise or the simple dignity which he

shares with all the things of the wild. It is bred in him, is a part of

himself and the life he leads. He is as conscious of his superior

knowledge of the woods as an astronomer is of his knowledge of the

stars, and patiently tolerates the ignorance and awkwardness of the

"tenderfoot" from the city. Only a keen sense of humor can make this

toleration possible, for I have seen things done by a city-dweller at

camp that would enrage a woodsman, unless the irresistibly funny side of

it made him laugh his inward laugh that seldom reaches the surface.

To live for a while in the wild strengthens the muscles of your mind as

well as of your body. Flabby thoughts and flabby muscles depart together

and are replaced by enthusiasm and vigor of purpose, by strength of limb

and chest and back. To _have_ seems not so desirable as to _be_. When

you have once come into sympathy with this world of the wild--which

holds our cultivated, artificial world in the hollow of its hand and

gives it life--new joy, good, wholesome, heartfelt joy, will well up

within you. New and absorbing interests will claim your attention. You

will breathe deeper, stand straighter. The small, petty things of life

will lose their seeming importance and great things will look larger and

infinitely more worth while. You will know that the woods, the fields,

the streams and great waters bear wonderful messages for you, and,

little by little, you will learn to read them.

The majority of people who visit the up-to-date hotels of the

Adirondacks, which their wily proprietors call camps, may think they see

the wild and are living in it. But for them it is only a big

picnic-ground through which they rush with unseeing eyes and whose

cloisters they invade with unfeeling hearts, seemingly for the one

purpose of building a fire, cooking their lunch, eating it, and then

hurrying back to the comforts of the hotel and the gayety of hotel life.

At their careless and noisy approach the forest suddenly withdraws

itself into its deep reserve and reveals no secrets. It is as if they

entered an empty house and passed through deserted rooms, but all the

time the intruders are stealthily watched by unseen, hostile, or

frightened eyes. Every form of moving life is stilled and magically

fades into its background. The tawny rabbit halts amid the dry leaves of

a fallen tree. No one sees it. The sinuous weasel slips silently under a

rock by the side of the trail and is unnoticed. The mother grouse

crouches low amid the underbrush and her little ones follow her example,

but the careless company has no time to observe and drifts quickly by.

Only the irrepressible red squirrel might be seen, but isn't, when he

loses his balance and drops to a lower branch in his efforts to miss

nothing of the excitement of the invasion.

This is not romance, it is truth. To think sentimentally about nature,

to sit by a babbling brook and try to put your supposed feelings into

verse, will not help you to know the wild. The only way to cultivate the

sympathy and understanding which will enable you to feel its

heart-beats, is to go to it humbly, ready to see the wonders it can

show; ready to appreciate and love its beauties and ready to meet on

friendly and cordial terms the animal life whose home it is. The wild

world is, indeed, a wonderful world; how wonderful and interesting we

learn only by degrees and actual experience. It is free, but not

lawless; to enter it fully we must obey these laws which are slowly and

silently impressed upon us. It is a wholesome, life-giving, inspiring

world, and when you have learned to conform to its rules you are met on

every hand by friendly messengers to guide you and teach you the ways of

the wild: wild birds, wild fruits and plants, and gentle, furtive, wild

animals. You cannot put their messages into words, but you can feel

them; and then, suddenly, you no longer care for soft cushions and rugs,

for shaded lamps, dainty fare and finery, for paved streets and concrete

walks. You want to plant your feet upon the earth in its natural state,

however rugged or boggy it may be. You want your cushions to be of the

soft moss-beds of the piny woods, and, with the unparalleled sauce of a

healthy, hearty appetite, you want to eat your dinner out of doors,

cooked over the outdoor fire, and to drink water from a birch-bark cup,

brought cool and dripping from the bubbling spring.

You want, oh! how you want to sleep on a springy bed of balsam boughs,

wrapped in soft, warm, woollen blankets with the sweet night air of all

outdoors to breathe while you sleep. You want your flower-garden, not

with great and gorgeous masses of bloom in evident, orderly beds, but

keeping always charming surprises for unexpected times and in

unsuspected places. You want the flowers that grow without your help in

ways you have not planned; that hold the enchantment of the wilderness.

Some people are born with this love for the wild, some attain it, but in

either case the joy is there, and to find it you must seek it. Your

chosen trail may lead through the primeval forests or into the great

western deserts or plains; or it may reach only left-over bits of the

wild which can be found at no great distance from home. Even a bit of

meadow or woodland, even an uncultivated field on the hilltop, will give

you a taste of the wild; and if you strike the trail in the right spirit

you will find upon arrival that these remnants of the wild world have

much to show and to teach you. There are the sky, the clouds, the

lungfuls of pure air, the growing things which send their roots where

they will and not in a man-ordered way. There is the wild life that

obeys no man's law: the insects, the birds, and small four-footed

animals. On all sides you will find evidences of wild life if you will

look for it. Here you may make camp for a day and enjoy that day as much

as if it were one of many in a several weeks' camping trip.

However, this is not to be a book of glittering generalities but, as far

as it can be made, one of practical helpfulness in outdoor life;

therefore when you are told to strike the trail you must also be told

how to do it.