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Personal connection through a sense of space

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Personal connection through a sense of space

Postby kpeter » Thu Dec 10, 2015 7:33 am

In a response I wrote in another thread, I was reminded of impromptu memorials that people hold in the wilderness for loved ones who die there. But as I thought about that experience, I realized that I had often felt a sense of connection to a person when I was in the wilderness, and that this particular connection was unique to the wilderness experience.

For example, more than 40 years ago, as a teenager, I hiked across the Sawtooths in Idaho with my Dad. Six years ago, while he was dying, I returned to retrace our former hike together, sending him SPOT signals along the way so he could see my progress and think about the journey we had undertaken together. I came across specific places where we had camped, where we had rested, where he had given me fatherly advice. Each of those spots, in the middle of the wilderness, seemed to glow with the sense of connection. In contrast, I would never feel that way about spots my Dad and I had spent time together in civilization.

I know a lot of this sense of connection is pure sentiment, but I think it becomes incredibly powerful when the bonds of sentiment coincide with a particularly isolated, beautiful spot in the wilderness. I imagine the people who knew the Rettenbachers felt that way about their gravesite--but it does not have to be a final resting spot.

So this is my question: Do the rest of you have particular places in the wilderness to which you return that evoke a powerful connection to a friend or family member?
Last edited by kpeter on Fri Dec 11, 2015 5:39 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Personal connection through a sense of space

Postby dave54 » Thu Dec 10, 2015 11:16 am

My grandfather worked on a cattle ranch in Jackson Hole as a teenager in the 19 teens before enlisting in WWI, never returning to the outdoor life after the war. He would often tell me the stories of his youth, and I could tell he still had a special fondness of his days working that ranch. Shortly before he passed he gave me some of his personal items, including a blanket sided round canteen he carried on his horse.

Several years ago on a trip to Yellowstone and Grand Tetons I took that canteen, still in good shape after all these years. While sitting on a log underneath some streamside cottonwood trees I drank from that canteen. I somehow knew he was sitting on that log next to me. I could feel him there. It was a very calm and reassuring event.
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Re: Personal connection through a sense of space

Postby iHartMK » Fri Dec 11, 2015 9:40 am

For a different reason than death, but yes I have places that bring back very strong memories of a person. Going to these places now make me happy and sad..
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Re: Personal connection through a sense of space

Postby Mtncaddis » Fri Jan 08, 2016 9:17 pm

Yes, definitely have a place in nature that brings on a feeling of connection to a family member, and have never had a similarly strong feeling in civilization. The place is a gorge in the Appalachian mountains where one of my uncles took me on my first backpacking trip many moons ago when I was in my teens. I had been to the mountains before but had never seen a sunrise in the mountains until that trip, and the sunrise I experienced on that trip inspired me to move to the mountains after finishing school. My uncle and I only made that one backpacking trip to the gorge but I have been back countless times through my adult life and always feel close to him when there. Its a place where he and his friends spent a lot of time in their younger days and where I have had some of the best of times with the best of friends over the past 20 years.
I have only been to California once but I was completely blown away by the Sierra Nevada and the Redwoods. I shared my photos and stories of thar trip my wife and I made to the Sierra with my Grandfather shortly before he passed away. I told him how we found out about a long trail through the Sierra and told him that I was hoping to return to explore that trail. He was ecstatic about my plan and told me to follow through with it...told me that it would be the kind of adventure that would reverberate with me for a lifetime. I will return to the Sierra in the Fall of 2016 to take a long walk and to honor my Grandfather.
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Re: Personal connection through a sense of space

Postby SweetSierra » Sun Jan 10, 2016 6:04 am

When I'm in the mountains or backpacking in the desert, I tune in so completely that later I often remember specific details about the whole trip, how I felt, what I saw, the condition of the trail, the location of the creeks or springs, etc. I can bring up in my mind trips from 20 or more years ago, almost step by step, as if they were yesterday. Some have faded. I don't remember my first backpack very well. I was 17. A bear ate all our food the first night at Tuolumne Meadows and we subsisted on fish my brother caught, raisins, and canned tamales. But I remember the hike out. I was out of shape going in but felt so great coming out that I vowed to get back in shape. So I became a runner, which sent me on other more strenuous backpacks that I had longed to do. So it's more than a memory of a person but what the wilderness gave me, taught me. Almost everywhere I go in the Sierra I'm reminded of past trips--it's like seeing a good friend again.
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Re: Personal connection through a sense of space

Postby giantbrookie » Fri Jan 29, 2016 9:34 pm

kpeter wrote:So this is my question: Do the rest of you have particular places in the wilderness to which you return that evoke a powerful connection to a friend or family member?

Most certainly. The moments in the Sierra as a kid were my fondest memories of time spent with my family, especially my dad. I went to a lot of places with my dad, so there are a lot of places that bring back wonderful memories when I'm there. Most recently (last August) I went over the shoulder north of Bear Creek Spire ("Not Cox Col" as I call it) retracing the route I last did with my dad in 1986. I remember that hike so well for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that I was a bit preoccupied during that hike with the thought of someone whom I had just met (a young woman who would become my wife, in fact). Whereas most of the Sierra trips of my youth were just me and my dad, there were some special family spots for all four of us (mom, dad, my bro, me), too, such as Mt Hoffman, and, above all, the Saddebag Lake area. It is for this reason my mom, bro, and I scattered my dad's ashes somewhere above Saddlebag in '01 and why my bro and I scattered my mom's ashes in the same place last summer.
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Re: Personal connection through a sense of space

Postby RoguePhotonic » Sun Jan 31, 2016 11:57 am

Although I have been camping and fishing in the outdoors all my life nostalgia is not something I experience or connect with anything I currently do out there. I've always lived more in the moment than anything else. Civilization to me represents chaos, hostility and all around ugliness. As Lord Byron said "There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar; I love not man the less, but nature more."

There is purity in those high mountains. A greater place in time to be. And I shall waste away on their slopes until one day the rocks grind my bones into dust that fly away on the winds.
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Re: Personal connection through a sense of space

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Jan 31, 2016 2:12 pm

I lean a bit to the side of Rogue. Not that I think civilization is all evil, but human relationships are really hard work! I go into the wilderness go get away from that hard work. I am not a really social person. I love my family but really do not have many people oriented feelings or personal connections in the mountains. I definitely connect with the land, the sky, the sun, the moon, the stars. Ever since the first time I was in the mountains as a young teen, it felt instantly like home! I was raised in a most loving family, had an ideal childhood, but the mountains have always been a place for me to get away from people. So I do not think not having personal connections in space is totally related to poor experiences with human contact. I think some of us are just predisposed to be loners.
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Re: Personal connection through a sense of space

Postby rlown » Sun Jan 31, 2016 5:17 pm

hmm. I go on trips to get away from connectivity and work; family has it's place and it's not up there for me at least (they don't like to hike). And I choose to go with like-minded friends because I do. (no explanation). I like to have those like-minded friends around me and share the experience; smaller groups of 2-3 are better. If I go solo, and I find something special and I look to my left and no one is there the share, umm.. to each their own.
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Re: Personal connection through a sense of space

Postby brob757 » Mon Feb 01, 2016 9:00 am

I grew up right at the base of the Appalachian mountains in SW Pennsylvania. My father grew up in a suburban atmosphere so it was tough for him to get too far away from civilization. By the time I was old enough to hike my grandfather, who grew up deep inside the Appalachians of WV in a town called Little Birch, was a little too old to be hiking in rugged terrain, but he used to tell us tales of the woodlands from his childhood. He was born in 1913 so there really was not much civilization where he grew up.

Anyways my father and I started hiking a lot when I was probably 5-6 years old. There were no areas classified as wilderness, but it was many miles of unbroken and rugged mountainous terrain. It always reminded me of tales my grandfather would tell when we would come across old stone foundations way back in the woods from some of the oldest and original people to settle in the area. So old the wood had all rotted away in many circumstances. One place in particular was over a mile and a half off the road at the top of a ridge. There are old stone walls and several old foundations. My dad always talked about how he would have loved to get a metal detector and search the area. Especially when we found out that this particular set of foundations belonged to a farmer whose only reason to grow corn on top of a mountain was that he was making booze during prohibition.

Not far from there in one direction was an area strewn with giant boulders that we used to climb all over. In another direction there was a large opening out over top of a very very steep mountainside where you could see way out over a hollow in between two mountains. Sometimes I'd sit there for hours watching hawks and ravens fly by at eye level to me yet hundreds of feet above the hollow below. I can't think of that place without thinking of my father who used to hike there with me. Also, on that steep hillside, I harvested a truly beautiful whitetail buck, the largest I'd ever taken, and again the first thing I think of is how I barely had a single bar of service to call my dad at work and tell him how excited I really was!

My dad is still very much alive but he is the one I have hiked with the most. He introduced me to the Sierras over 10 years ago, and again, I can't think of the sequoias, Yosemite, or Kings Canyon without thinking of him. Especially the area between cedar Grove and roads end in Kings Canyon. Many areas remind me if the strong bonds my dad and I formed hiking in the woods. I wish I could go back to being a kid sometimes and hike all over the woods with him again.
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