Thursday, August 5, 2021

Get Your Gear and Go West.

There’s a scene very early on in the Danny Boyle movie 127 Hours where James Franco (blah) decides to go out hiking and in a montage we see him quickly gather up his gear and toss it in his truck and head out on adventures. Now if you’re familiar with the movie then you know that this whole adventure does not go well for him (He has to cut off his own arm. Long story).  

Be that as it may, I have always liked the gear gathering montage. This is probably because when it comes to outdoor adventure stuff I have always been a meticulous planner. You should see the research I did when I went kayak camping on Catalina island!

Over my last few moves though, I have shed a lot of my gear. I got rid of stuff because I didn’t have much time to use it in grad school or because some of it was worn out or because the technologies have gotten so much better in the last few years that I knew it would be worth the money to eventually upgrade.

Recently I have slowly been putting together a new kit of stuff. I needed a new sleeping pad, a new water filter, a new little light weight tent, a small solar charger, etc. Well over the last few months I have researched those things and rounded them up. As I’d suspected, the technology has gotten better. I found a 1-person single walled backpacking tent that I can get down to less than three pounds if I swap out the tent stakes for titanium. It cost $30 dollars. Now three pounds is two or three times as much as the absolute lightest similar tents out there, but those cost ten times as much. I found a Sawyer filter that is smaller than the one I bought six years ago and cost a third of what I’d paid back then. It really is amazing what the quiet and boring march of incremental improvement can do. The kit I’m going to end up with will cost less than $200 and a similar kit five years ago would have cost (I estimate) about $1,000. 

How cool is that?

My plan has been to assemble a set of stuff that I can toss in my little car on a whim on a Friday afternoon and at least go out car camping for the night. I even have some freeze dried meals and extra Clif Bars and a couple gallons of water. I am good to go!

But then … as always … there is something I forgot. I don’t know where to go.

I live on California’s Central Coast and I’d just assumed that there were campsites and whatnot all around. That is only kind of true. There are some. But the problem seems to be that they are all located on California’s Central Coast and it is August and they are full. I am still getting used to the idea that I live in a place that people come to to vacation and to get away from everything. Honestly, it was easier to find campsites when I lived in LA. 

So maybe the idea was flawed from the outset. Maybe the reason that the gear gathering montage appealed to me so much was because it speaks to this kind of light and free fantasy of being able to grab and go that simply isn’t true of the world we live in. Maybe on some level I knew that. The reason it is appealing is because it is impossible.

But fear not. I’ll figure something out. Maybe it will just require waiting until September, when the tourists begin to ebb away. Or maybe it will mean sitting in front of a computer, refreshing State Park websites like I’m trying to score concert tickets. That seems like an odd way to start a nature adventure: online. 

That getting away from all the dreary things about modern life requires more deeply engaging in those dreary things tells us something about modern life and why we want to get away from it.




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