Adventure is key measure for life


Just yesterday, I received a text from a very old friend reminding me that on this very day, 51 years ago, I saw the Beatles at the Cow Palace.
A message like that is another marker reminding me that the youthful days of restless striving and yearning are behind me. Without a doubt, most of my doing has been done, and that suits me just fine. Life continues to be an exciting and wondrous mystery, and I like living it with the touch of serenity and wisdom that comes with gray hair.
From this vantage point, I have come to feel that a key measurement of a life well lived is the degree to which it includes adventure. For this discussion, Webster’s definition misses the mark. By adventure, I mean any event or activity, the prospect of which both excites and scares you.
As an example, imagine hopping on a plane to Ghana, Africa as you begin a two-year stint in the Peace Corps. Exciting? Very … yet scary as well. At home, everyone knows you. In Ghana, nobody does. Simple things you take for granted—a familiar language and recognizable surroundings—aren’t there. Many of your safety valves—an emergency phone call to a friend, AAA or 911—are gone. In a strange and distant African country, a problem easily solved at home is likely to require all the resourcefulness you can muster.
I am confident that when the Peace Corps volunteer starts collecting Social Security, she will look back on her adventure as high among the fondest memories and richest experiences of her life. I am also sure that every day of her life since her return she stood a little taller and feared far fewer things than she did before she left. Most of us have mortgages, families and jobs that make chasing the grand and exotic adventures difficult if not impossible. If we regular folks seek adventure, where is it within our reach?
In a couple weeks, I will join some friends for a weeklong southern Sierra backpack trip. Each evening, I will crawl into my warm downy cocoon, and before sleep arrives, I will count shooting stars under a spectacular star-studded sky. Though I have done this many times, I will still feel a heightened nervous excitement. I will think, “Man, I’m way out here!” If any of the worrisome “what-if’s” come to pass, what will I do? I can’t phone anyone for help. Whatever happens, the equipment on my back and my own resourcefulness are all I have.
Yes, I cranked up the drama there a little bit. Most trips go without incident. But I have had some close calls, and I am always mindful that in the backcountry “safe and sound” is a fragile commodity. The Sierra high country is a rough environment and utterly indifferent to my well being. I am always excited to go, but I am also aware of the difficulties I will face as well as the greater difficulties I may face. That’s why it is an adventure.
Wilderness is nearby and available to all of us, no matter our worldly obligations. If the idea of venturing there induces a shudder of fear and excitement, equip yourself, prepare yourself and go. Like my imagined Peace Corps friend, I value my modest wilderness adventures for all they have given me. I know I walk a little taller because of them. I am a little surer of myself because of them, and my life is far richer because of them.
Ron Erskine is a local outdoors columnist and avid hiker. Visit him online at, his blog at or email him at [email protected]


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