There’s no right answer to the question: “What is the essential, defining element that makes us love outdoor sports like hunting and fishing more than any other single factor?”
But I just returned from an annual trip I take with a friend and former college roommate to Fire Island, N.Y., where we’ve been fishing the surf since meeting as freshman in college at Syracuse University. Curt Dircks and his family own a small cabin on the island and we’ve had some spectacular years chasing striped bass and bluefish there over the past decade. The island, where most residents and visitors take a ferry from Long Island and commute either by walking or bicycle, is a unique and beautiful one. The whitetail deer, which walk over the ice in the winter to reach the island, alone make it a unique environment.
Prior to that trip I got to spend a weekend at a camp my aunt and uncle, Tom and Bridget Roberts, have had in their family for as long as I’ve been alive... and much longer before that. The cabin-style camp is in Old Forge, N.Y., near the base of the Adirondack National Park.
It’s a common occurrence to see black bears roaming within a stone’s throw from the cabin, and a trip without a deer sighting is almost unheard of. The cabin itself is mostly unadorned, basic and beautiful in a rustic way. On the front porch you can see the Adirondack’s Fulton Lake Chain spread out before you and behind the cabin there’s an enormous stone fire-pit that I can remember sitting at almost every summer for as long as I’ve been alive.
These beautiful places I’ve been blessed to see and revisit have convinced me that, more than any other single factor, travel and exploration are the basic elements of our love for the outdoors.
A fishing rod seemingly has a fairly simple purpose, but in reality it’s something we get to point at the next place we’d like to visit, see, explore, or return to. It’s a means, an excuse and a justification for exploring as many of the truly unique, breathtaking and memorable parts of this country and this earth as we might, given only one lifetime.
Had I not picked up a fishing rod, and in many respects held onto it, early on in my life, I might very well have still sought out these places, these experiences and the incredible wildlife that calls each home.
But I don’t know that I would have, and I’m certainly grateful every day that I did.