"If you go down to the woods today, you're sure of a big surprise..."
The song takes me back to my childhood. To that forest behind our house with the secret spot of cloudberries. The one on the way to school, from where every fall we found baby frogs. Or the one, where we had the school's cross country skiing competition every winter. You never knew what kind of adventures awaited, when you stepped in those kingdoms of trees. Nothing could go wrong - as even the biggest obstacles were part of the adventure.
Time traveling all the way to this moment. Years have gone by, times have changed and we have grown up. Rarely do we set our head on a pile of moss anymore and play that's our bed for the night. Nor do we follow a line of ants and help them build a highway back to the warren. However, what we still have is the stories. The stories from our youth, last year or last week. The stories that bring back memories: images, smells, sounds, people... The ones that make us laugh, shake our heads and long for those moments in the past.
While sitting by the campfire on a mid-October evening at McConnell Lake we started to think back to these stories. Our experiences and adventures in the outdoors. We started to wonder questions like: "What is your best outdoor experience? Or the one that you cherish the most?"
"That one time we spent those couple of days camping at the beach..."
"Heliskiing trip to Alaska, definitely..."
"That time, when all we had for food was that stack of potatoes..."
"That one winter when we tried to build that massive igloo.."
"The one time, my friend forgot to bring his jacket and we were freezing cold, eating cold beans and camping up in 2200 meters..."
"Actually, this trip is one of my first outdoor experiences..."
"That one time we fell in the lake..."
What we realized that night, is that rarely do the stories begin with "That was so epic", "I can't believe how cool we were". More often they begin with a slight laughter following a story in which, if not everything, but at least something went wrong. Like that very morning at McConnell Lake, when we realized we had forgotten the keys to the cabin. Or that afternoon, when it was pouring down rain, and the 16 of us were all packed in a small dark cabin with just a little fireplace keeping us warm.
What unites these stories is people. Friend(s), family, school group or that friendly stranger. In addition, the stories most often involve overcoming some kind of a challenge: frozen toes, soaking wet clothes, hunger, frustration... At that particular time it may have been annoying and bad, like the world had turned against you. However in the end, the stories usually finish with warm socks, dry clothes, that "heavenly tasting" cold can of beans and most importantly - with a smile.
"The forest answers in the same way one shouts at it" (Finnish proverb). May seem obvious. The echo of your voice usually sounds pretty familiar. However, the message behind the saying is that the world you get is the world you give away. Like back in those days when you were little. You gave the forest your time and imagination. The forest responded with amazing adventures, imaginary worlds and pure joy of being alive.
“For me, when everything goes wrong – that’s when adventure starts” -Yvon Chouinard (a pioneer in modern rock climbing and the founder of clothing and gear company Patagonia)
Nowadays we are adults. We are prepared for the world, but not always is the world prepared for us. No matter how hard we try, most likely we can't avoid challenges and obstacles. Even if we had 7 pairs of warm wool socks, at some point in our lives we may find ourselves with freezing cold toes. In that moment, we need to realize that obstacles are made to be overcome.
So, if you do go down to the woods today, don't be afraid of that possible surprise. That's when the adventure starts!
The writer is an ever wandering elf from the Finnish Lapland
The pictures are from AdventureU club trip to McConnell Lake, October 15-16th, 2016
Trip leaders: Katariina Määttä & Christopher Brown