Here we are, sitting in near darkness, seduced by the spectacular scenery of this wilderness setting.
We are neither cold nor uncomfortable, or bothered by the hard ground.
Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we are sitting in plush seats of a temperature-controlled movie theater.
Nevertheless, I recently asked myself,
“Self…why do we wander out into the wilderness? What does it do for, or to, us?”
I have been getting into the great outdoors for as long as I have been breathing. While I came onto this planet in the suburban setting of the San Francisco east bay area, I was lucky to be born to parents who had a love for the fresh, pine-scented forests of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, where I spent many a youthful summer.
We used to take annual family car camping trips up to places like Lake Tahoe, and stays at Camp Mather, just outside of Yosemite.
In my formative years, I donned the merit badge-festooned uniform of the Boy Scouts of America—long before scandals of homophobia and the concept of low-impact camping techniques were de rigueur.
(One of our first tasks when making camp was to surround our canvas tents with drainage ditches cut deep into the fragile soil.)
While in college in the early 70’s, I joined the Chabot College hiking club, where we would venture up to the central Sierras. My love of wilderness grew during those treks, which may have had something to do with the recreational herbaceous materials we would pass around in the back of the van during the drive.
Or, maybe it was that I discovered women would backpack topless and were—occasionally—not averse to sharing a sleeping bag, after the ritual herb sharing around the campfire.
Hey, remember that was the post Haight-Asbury, Summer of Love era.
But, what really broadened my horizons was my 30- year affair with the iconic outdoor travel writer, Tim Cahill. Whether from Outside Magazine articles, or his series of travel tales with tantalizing titles, his evocative prose, infused with self-effacing humor, created an impetus for global adventure discovery.
I also discovered that the outdoors meant different things to different people.
Over the intervening years, a lot of people decided that the wilderness was not just a place to get drunk, get naked and sit around in a drum circle all night.
(That is what Burning Man is for.)
The fact was, adventure travel seemed to lean more and more towards the adventure aspect of the outdoors activities.
Enter the world of extreme adventure. Doing it harder, faster, longer—and scarier—became the attraction, in and of itself, for some.
Is there some form of “runner’s high” which revs up the desire for extreme adventure? Can this just be the outcome of self-induced morphine-like neurotransmitters, namely endorphins, dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, and even something called endocannabinoids, which the human body naturally produces?
(Thanks, U.C. Berkeley Wellness Letter for all those intelligent sounding words.)
Whatever the catalyst, for some, it ain’t a good time unless they bleed and it hurts. And, it gets filmed.
Back a few years, the goal for a few was to be labeled Jackass and get their videos viewed in a hit movie and television series. (I am not sure, but I think now days, you might find some of those that survived those exploits on Tosh.0)
Those wishing to forgo the gaping wounds and severe pain can still venture out—at least virtually—into slightly less testosterone-stimulated situations by viewing various adventure films.
This would include offerings from Warren Miller, Radical Reels, and locally inspired versions, like the Lake Tahoe Adventure Film Festival, or what I just saw at the Davis High School theater, a showing of the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour.
I could not help but notice that the majority of the attendees seem to be a league of like-minded, tattooed tribe of wannabe adventurists, displaying a true sense of uniform individuality by their apparent requisite costume, bearing labels of Columbia, Patagonia, North Face, and REI.
But, my guess is that most of that audience does get out, notwithstanding the tagline of one of those adventure film posters that boasted—albeit absurdly—watching others out there in a movie is ”the next best thing to doing it.”
Nah, we know that is not even close to being true. Really, how likely are you to see even one topless woman in an adventure film audience?
I certainly did not see any at the Banff Mountain movies last week.
Although, I did smell some smoke of a particularly distinctive odor in the parking lot during the intermission.