What’s Your Kind of Wilderness?

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Over spring break, my Mountain Fam had a mix of outdoor experiences. We played at a park, biked on a local trail and camped in a beautiful, forgotten corner of the Utah desert. It brought to mind the question, What’s my kind of wilderness?

Urban Jungle
For some people getting outdoors just means a stroll to the neighborhood park. A chunk of manicured green cut out from concrete streets and brick buildings may be all the outdoor love you need.

When Little G was first born, before we moved to the mountains, this was the extent of my outdoor experience. I walked to the park around the corner to push my two tots on swings and spend hours watching Big E dig in the sandbox in our backyard.

A backyard sandbox, herb garden or hammock might be just enough wilderness to get all the benefits of being outdoors without leaving home. It was nice. But it wasn’t enough for me.
Suburban Wilderness
After moving to the mountains near Sundance Mountain Resort in Utah, my daily outdoor experience changed. I live with a forest right outside my front door and a ski hill just down the road. We live far enough out of town to be surrounded by trees but close enough that grocery shopping isn’t an all day ordeal.

In the canyon near my home is my favorite Go To Outdoor Space – the Provo River Trail. I love it because the flat paved trail runs along a river on one side and mountains on the other. It’s nothing if not beautiful.

Since one of my goals this year is to teach my kids to ride bikes, we hit this trail last week on a balance bike from WOOM (pronounced VOOM). Technically its Little G’s WOOM 3 with the pedals removed but since Big E has yet to learn to ride a bike even though he’s in first grade, I put it to use like a balance bike. Big E loved it.

I’m grateful for locations like this suburban wilderness bike trail. It’s only a 15 minute drive from town, easily accessible at multiple parks and it even passes Bridal Veil Falls, a 200 foot tall waterfall. Many hikers and bikers enjoy this trail all year long and sometimes the trail heads and parks can be overly crowded, especially on weekends.
Outdoor Destination
Think of the outdoor spaces within an hour or two of your home. Those places you could drive to for a day activity – beach, mountain, river. People go there for a day or two to enjoy the outdoors and relax.

Most of my camping adventures fall into this category. We live in the vast Wasatch Uinta National Forest where there are loads of hiking, mountain biking, and camping all within an hour drive. These destinations are great for day or overnight trips, to really get out of the norm. I could camp if I want but I usually don’t since it’s close enough to get back home fairly quickly.

These kinds of spaces are usually more remote than the local park or Suburban wilderness. They allude to vast wild spaces before man walked the earth, but the trail heads are still full of people. I like these places because it puts me in a vacation mentality when I go there. They’re far enough away that you take the day off work and do something out of the norm. But they’re not what calls to Mountain Dad.

Utter Isolation
Last weekend we took our first camp out of the year in the San Rafael Swell desert area of Utah. We explored sandstone rock spires, hoodoos, a gypsum sinkhole and desert washes and canyons. We camped on BLM land without seeing another person for more than 24 hours.

This remote kind of wilderness is what Mountain Dad craves. The vast natural beauty and utter lack of people is exactly up his alley. As we explored Cathedral Valley and the Buckhorn Wash pictographs he said, “Any other state, this would be a National Park.” He might have something there. 

Although beautiful, the remoteness of this destination makes it difficult. You must feel comfortable providing for your own needs. Water, bathrooms, lodging, food – there’s no resources nearby. You have to take care of that on your own. The closest ‘town’ to our adventure in Cathedral Valley had two gas stations and no stoplights. Not exactly a destination location.

Yet Mountain Dad was effusive in his praise. Something about getting away from people and enjoying beautiful scenery is like magic for him. I agree it was beautiful and fun to feel like we found something special that few people experience. But when the thought, “What would happen if we got a flat tire?” popped into my head, I wondered if I needed THAT much isolation.

What’s Your Kind of Wilderness?
For me, I prefer the adventure of getting away from home for several days, but I don’t mind sharing my outdoor space with other nature lovers either. For Mountain Dad, the more remote and beautiful (and crowdless) the better.
So what is it for you? Are you content with a stroll in the local park or do you crave to leave the crowds (of whatever size) and find that untouched wild space? Leave a comment and let me know. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Author: Mountain Mom

Hi! I'm Mountain Mom. I live with my husband and three young kids in the mountains near Sundance, Utah. When we're not hiking, biking, skiing and camping, I spend my time doing Mom stuff and reading. Summer of 2016 we traveled over 7,000 miles along the US National Park to Park Highway.

8 thoughts on “What’s Your Kind of Wilderness?”

  1. The San Rafael Swellarea is awesome! On our summit trip that Nate and I went on before we were married we did zero G canyon. We were down in moab for spring break and had a blast! It was fun to get away, but I will admit with the kids as young as they are I liked having town close to pick up things we had forgotten or have a laundrymat close if they wet the sleeping bag, which fortunately did not happen 🙂 looks like your trip was fun! A good precursor to your upcoming long national parks trip 🙂

  2. I like outdoor destination and utter isolation, but don't think I could do the isolation bit long term (more than 7 days) as I would miss plumbing. 😉 We look for nature escapes in the city throughout the week and hit the mountains almost every weekend! It's a good balance for us (though I'd move to the mountains if we could get work there)!

  3. Lack of plumbing is definitely a challenge. Case in point – Little G peed in her shoes on this trip. Not ON her shoes, IN them. She took them off while trying to pee in the wild and accidentally soaked them.

  4. I can make do with the other types, but utter isolation is my dream destination. Not because I'm against people, but because when I'm alone in nature it reminds me of my place in the world and my responsibilities as an organism on this planet. (Plus the pictures are usually better. 😉

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