Surprise and adventure should be in the job description of anybody who works with students in the outdoors. I have my fair share of personal wilderness anecdotes and perhaps too large a catalogue of adventures-gone-wrong, but the times I have shared with students in the outdoors have provided me with many of my most memorable and formative wilderness experiences. I guess that’s what is so special about outdoor education and teaching in general – for every lesson you deliver, you are certain to learn even more yourself.
One such lesson, and the basis for this entire rant, came from a bright-eyed high schooler from Utah following a week of exploring Grand Teton National Park under the guidance of a handful of passionate educators and outdoor enthusiasts. Upon closing the week and sharing appreciations with one another, this student, let’s call him Will, wanted to thank us for reintroducing him to “The Roar”. Without us asking, perhaps because he could read our confusion and intrigue, he clarified that “The Roar” is a feeling that cannot easily be explained.
“You feel it,” Will declared, “when you’re outside and know that you are a part of something bigger. Something special.” Will went on to describe how he hears this roar most often when floating through fresh snow on his snowboard but that you can hear it just about anywhere…if you’re listening.
All of us had been raised on the outdoors. National Park road trips, lobster fishing families on the North Atlantic, a mysterious inner drive to escape city life, or skiing steep lines in the mountains of Wyoming played their own unique role in bringing us together. Yes we all loved the outdoors for a number of reasons, but it had been near impossible to pinpoint a common denominator – until now.
The roar is the feeling Nature can and does evoke in all of us; to get out, explore, and push our limits. It’s the roar that makes extreme skiers huck bigger cliffs, botanists stop and look a bit closer at a passing wildflower, or a casual hiker simply pause and reflect. This roar draws people to the wilderness for the first time and keeps them coming back for more. This roar is booming during once-in-a-lifetime sunsets and is even louder when huddled under a rain fly during the most severe of thunderstorms. Those that truly hear it know the beauty in both.
Will nailed it. It is this roar that had brought us all to the wilderness, and it is that same roar that draws countless others to get outside and explore. Everyone can hear it but not everyone is listening.
Put your ear to the ground and find your roar. Follow it. Wrestle with it. Chase it up the highest mountain, down into the deepest valley, across vast oceans and into dark looming forests, or through those wide expanses of nothingness. It’s out there. Are you listening?
Cover photo and blog photos by Preserved Light Photography