I just moved to sunny, beautiful northern California. Yet sometimes I find myself missing the north country, the lake-freckled woods in northern Minnesota and Ontario where the map is practically more blue than green. I long to visit the Boundary Waters. I yearn to paddle for weeks in the Wabakimi Wilderness. I miss the warmth, smell, and glow of a campfire on a chilly August night while the Northern Lights twist electric in the sky.
Above: paddling at sunset, deep in the Wabakimi Wilderness. Sigh.
You've probably had this experience too. Your life gets hectic, say, and you can't stop thinking about the Appalachian Trail. Or maybe you've just always dreamed of going someplace. In any case, it can get to you after a while.
Here are five things you can do to satisfy your longing for a place if you can't go there.
1. Plan a trip. This is the approach I'm taking. Next summer, I am so going to the BWCAW (or "the B-Dub" as my slacker hippie friends in Duluth used to call it).
2. Read about it. Lose yourself in explorers' journals, contemporary accounts, guidebooks, etc. Learn about the unique geology/flora/fauna of the area. Careful though- this strategy might blow up in your face. Instead of satisfying your longing, it could stoke it.
3. Make a list. Write out a list of all the things you miss- campfire smoke, rushing rapids, climbing steep switchbacks, anything and everything that jabs at your heart when you think about the place. Simply getting it all on paper might help. If not, try #4.
4. Get a taste. Is there anything on that list that you can get nearby? Can you find a quiet place under the stars where you can build a campfire? Are there any steep mountain trails within a 50-mile drive? Can you do something small that will at least temporarily satisfy your urge to spend time in the place you're dreaming of? This is sort of the adult-outdoors-freak equivalent of giving a kid a handful of M&Ms in the grocery store so he or she will stop whining for a gallon of chocolate ice cream.
5. Revisit past visits. Obviously, this only works if you've been there. Pull out your trip journal. Read through every entry. Look at the photos. Write an essay or narrative about the experience.
A clifftop view of the Boundary Waters: