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Everything Else Outdoors Mike's Meanderings

A Thankful Outpouring for a Year of Outdoors-ing

19 Reasons for this Outdoor Enthusiast to give Thanks this Thanksgiving

We all get it. Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful. We’ve been reading lists most of our lives about what people are thankful for. Family, friends, food … these standards top almost any list. But have you ever considered what you are thankful for strictly as an outdoor enthusiast? I took a whack at it. It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.

I could be thankful that I’m not allergic to bee stings or that I’m not really susceptible to poison ivy. I could also give thanks that I’ve never sprained an ankle or broken a bone in the woods or on the trail. But something about those reasons for giving thanks just didn’t feel right.

Instead I feel lucky beyond belief, as if God has bestowed WAY TOO MUCH of his brilliance on my surroundings. But even the sacredness of creation couldn’t scare me away. I took a crack at this list anyway. Since the calendar year reads 2019, I decided to choose my top 2019 thankful discoveries … Just Kidding! I pared it down to “19” instead. Without further ado, here we go …

Nature’s beauty is always like a breath of fresh air to me!

19) Fresh Air
None of this outdoor stuff would be possible without an abundance of clean, fresh air. We need it to breathe. We feel relaxed and free when we are surrounded by it. We have a responsibility not to pollute it. Because without fresh air we’ll lose our trees, flowers, wildlife, and just about everything else we enjoy in the great outdoors (probably even before our own lungs shrivel up.)

Wenonah kevlar canoe
My favorite 46-lb. chariot awaits in the BWCAW!

18) 18ft. Canoes
To me, an 18ft. Wenonah Kevlar canoe is probably the most peaceful way to enjoy a body of water (especially in the BWCAW!) There’s something about gliding across an expanse of smooth-as-glass water powered only by a chunk of ash in your hands that used to be one of those trees dotting the shoreline. The memories I have with my butt parked on a 12in. x 12in. hard-as-rock seat with no backrest are irreplaceable! Black flies nipping at my ankles and herds of mosquitos suicide bombing my ears. Ah … perfection.

View out airplane window
Up, up and away! We’ll get there in just a fraction of a day!

17) Airplanes
Airplanes get you to some otherwise unattainable destinations, quickly and usually pretty easily. Our trek to Mount Haleakala National Park would have been a couple weeks to a month-long trip there and back solely on a boat without riding a plane. Airplanes would probably rank much higher on this list if I wasn’t such a puss. Unfortunately, after an hour or two in the air I start to get antsy. Others tend to call it squirmingly uncomfortable. From the constant shifting to the erratic knee bouncing, I’m admittedly a terrible seat neighbor. So, if you have any brilliant ideas to help Airplanes move on up my thankful list sometime in the near future, I’d love to hear them!

Nissan Pathfinder Interior
Plenty of room for all my gear in the back — even without the middle row of seats folded down!

16) SUVs
Same reasoning as airplanes, only you get to see much more of nature’s wonder through its windshield. Plus, my Pathfinder has a canoe rack, 4-wheel drive to get  us through some pretty awful road conditions, 5,000-lb. towing capacity and almost 80 cubic feet of cargo (i.e. camping gear) space! Unfortunately, it is much slower than flying, but hey, half the fun is getting there, right?

Travel books
Learn from the best, then make up the rest! It’s smart to have some initial direction of where to go on a vacation to a new location, but sometimes the best places are discovered on your own.

15) Guides
No, not the people kind – although I could have used an experienced fishing guide when I destroyed the lower unit of a 65 HP motor on a rock in Lake of the Woods earlier this year. (That added some ka-ching to a trip of me being a ding-a-ling!) I’m talking the paper kind of guide. Field guides and travel books have provided endless ideas for where to go, what to eat, and how to get the most out of my next destination. My National Parks guide and my BWCA books are 2 of my most used.

Samsung S8 camera phone
This trusty Samsung S8 Smartphone has snapped many a photo on my adventures. Do you like the custom case? Parker Flatly designed it himself!

14) Cameras
Since my point and shoot seems to have died, my smartphone has now become my traveling camera as well.  I’m so thankful for that Samsung S8 that’s always in my pocket, ready to capture the moment. It’s the perfect combination of technology and portability and also the perfect way to preserve memories of my travels … especially when I somehow manage to take a picture that’s worthy of printing on a canvas I can hang on my travel room walls.

Campfire glass of wine
We’ll drink no wine before it’s campfire time! (well …)

13) Campfires
There’s more to a campfire than its great source for warmth. It’s also the perfect gathering place for kicking back, relaxing, and reconnecting with family and friends after a long day in the wilderness. But I won’t stop there. A wood fire is an amazing source for cooking! Nothing quite beats the taste of a flame roasted hotdog, a carefully constructed s’more, or a perfect pudgy pie creation cooked on a campfire.

Appalachian trail sign
When it’s time to hit the trail: Leave only footprints. Take only memories.

12) People who leave no trace
I appreciate the wilderness in all of its naturalness. I don’t have much respect for those people who deface it or use it without taking care of it. So, when I notice fellow campers, hikers or site-seers taking the extra step to make sure they leave their natural surroundings exactly the way they found them, I appreciate and applaud them. “Leave-no-tracers” give me hope that there will still actually be some trace of wilderness left for my grandkids to enjoy.

Voyageurs National Park Ranger
Voyageurs National Park Ranger “Parker Stevens” chums it up with semi-namesake, Parker Flatly

11) Park Rangers
If you’re a State Park and National Park lover like me, I probably don’t have to do much explaining on this one. Not real familiar with the park system? Think of the rangers as the do-it-all handyman/meticulous caretaker/spotless cleaning service you’d love to have for your own home. Sometimes campers, or even Mother Nature, DO leave a trace, but with these guys and gals around, most of the time you’d never even know it!

Trout Fishing photo
When I’m fishing, I’m connected to nature at two separate points … My feet, and that trout at the end of my line.

10) Fishing Gear
Fishing rods are one of my truest connections to the outdoors. Watching that bobber dip below the surface, or creating a perfect loop with my fly line puts me in a peaceful state of mind that encourages a connection with my surroundings. And having the right gear at the right place at the right time goes a long way toward feeling that tug on the end of the line that completes the outdoor connection in a heart-pounding fashion.

Lake Superior Sunrise
This North Shore sunrise witnesses Lake Superior at her tamest, with Mother Nature her old, colorful self.

9) Sunrises
Pallets of bright colors mixed together in the great outdoors intrigue me. Anything from multi-colored Christmas light displays to fall leaf peeping excursions to the indescribable color patterns on the side of a brown or rainbow trout. But nothing can match the peaceful eye candy of a pastel sky! Pinks, purples, oranges, yellows, reds, all smudged together in the most magnificent way to start the day … a sunrise.

Maui, Hawaii Sunset
Two of my greatest loves were right here with me on the deck of our honeymoon suite in Maui, Hawaii — my lovely bride, and my beautiful Mother (Nature)

8) Sunsets
See #10 above — Same breathtaking colors and peacefulness, only occurring at a more manageable time of day. Simply stated, sunsets are ranked slightly higher than sunrises because you don’t lose any sleep over ‘em!

Yosemite Falls
Among all of the breathtaking sights in Yosemite National Park, the sight of Yosemite Falls plunging off a 2,500 ft. mountain had my soul overflowing with gratitude!

7) Mountains, Lakes, Rivers (especially waterfalls), Oceans
When I close my eyes and conjure up a past trip to any of these land or sea formations, “majestic” is the word that immediately comes to mind. Royal blue waters; majestic mountains … maybe that’s why I know I’ll cherish these things from now ‘til kingdom come.

Mother Moose and 2 Babies on the Gunflint
I still can’t believe I came this close to such new life (plus a harrowing brush with death) on this Gunflint Trail journey!

6) Wildlife
Wild turkey (the dressing-stuffed bird, not the stuff in the bottle!), moose, deer, wolves, bears, fish, pelicans, otters ….There’s an abundance of wildlife out there, and I feel so privileged every time I get to witness it in its natural habitat. Seeing furry or feathered friends in the woods serves to remind me that they are sharing their home with ME, and that makes me feel like a pretty honored guest.

Rockwood Freedom Popup Camper
This sure beats a tent or a hotel room when you want to spend a few nights with Mother Nature!

5) A Pop-Up Camper
There’s something to be said about living amongst nature. Since I don’t have the funds for a home on the lake or a large expanse of property in the mountains, a camper is the next best thing. My home away from home. It used to be that a tent was a fine choice for me to catch a few winks under a sky full of stars. But my creaky old back and pointedly sore hips seem to work a whole lot better the second day on the trail if I spend my overnight in the creature comforts of that Rockwood Freedom camper.

Map to your heart
At the heart of any successful writer is the Readers …. I’m so thankful that you all give up your precious time to read MY Blog … how humbling!

4) Blog Readers
Without all of you taking the time to read this blog, I wouldn’t be following this dream of dipping my toes into the “Joe Coolness” of the travel writing pool. When the words flow from my demented brain, through my fingertips to the keyboard, somehow creating a semi-meaningful article, it feels really good. But whenever I see your likes on Facebook, hear that you shared my blog or website with friends, or (especially) read one of your encouraging comments at the end of a story, it really touches my heart and justifies my efforts.

Florida State Parks
Deep in my own heart I believe that Minnesota has a strong case to prove otherwise. But hey, it’s the U.S.A., so freedom of speech is always tolerated!

3) State Parks
I know I’m very lucky that the great state of Minnesota, where I was born and raised, has so many amazing state parks. 67 to be exact. Each one is special in its own way. But Minnesota is not alone. There are hundreds of state parks, state forests and state recreation areas scattered across the U.S. Each one preserves its own little corner of nature. And I’m sure that each state believes, clear down to its roots, that no place in the world can compare to its own park system. Me? I’m just planning on hitting as many of these parks as I can before I once again become dust; dust that I hope my fellow explorers will be happy to hike upon some day.

Yosemite dream photo
I was gonna put a sign from The Great Smoky Mountains, Grand Canyon or Yosemite here, but this photo (that we somehow captured) epitomizes why National Parks landed so high on my thankful list. Completely indescribable!

2) National Parks
Whether you know your alphabet or not, these aberrations of nature have it all covered from Acadia to Zion. Some of America’s most wonderful spots were preserved by the work of famous conservationist, naturalist, writer, and, eventually the 26th president of the United States, Teddy Roosevelt. Between Roosevelt’s political pull and the tireless work of John Muir, deemed by many as the “Father of the National Parks”, many precious pieces of beautiful land were preserved as National Parks in the early 1900s. I’m so glad those lands are still around, unscathed and full of natural glory that I can enjoy to this day. As Mr. Muir stated in one of his most famous quotes, “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”

2 pairs of feet on the shoreline
Any place on earth just gets that much better when my wife is there to share the memories!

1) An AMAZING Travel Companion
(No, not Parker Flatly) Although my Flat Stanley wanna-be paper doll sidekick was a major part of conceptualizing this blog, no one will ever replace my wife as a travel companion. From our first National Park trip together just 5 months into our relationship (Yosemite!!! “It was here that the romance of my life began.” – Theodore Roosevelt), to the past year of travels, to our upcoming vacation plans, this woman puts the final stamp on outdoor perfection. Her constant support; her explorative nature; her grit on the trail; her always cheerful glow that puts the most colorful sunrises to shame; her incredible companionship; it all makes every new trip my best adventure yet! I’m so thankful to have her by my side not only throughout our travels, but when our butts are parked at home, as well!

What tops your list of Thanksgiving Outpourings for Outdoorsing? Share the favorite part of your list with us in the comments box below or shoot us an email at ParkYourselfOutdoors@gmail.com. And THANK YOU for reading! Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

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2 Comment

  1. I love the sounds: waves lapping against the shore; the mournful call of loons; whippoorwills whippoorwilling; the strange thumping sound of frogs that remind me of loose guitar strings being plucked; crickets chirping; coyotes calling home their young… I am certainly thankful for the effect these sounds have on me!

    1. Ah yes! There’s nothing like the symphony of nature. The loons are one of our favorites! Although they do sound a bit mournful, they always entice a smile.

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