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What the Outdoor World Can Do for Girls.

Category: I Trailing

There is a something in you, as in every one, every man, woman, girl,
and boy, that requires the tonic life of the wild. You may not know it,
many do not, but there is a part of your nature that only the wild can
reach, satisfy, and develop. The much-housed, overheated, overdressed,
and over-entertained life of most girls is artificial, and if one does
not turn away from and leave it for a while, one also becomes greatly
artificial and must go through life not knowing the joy, the strength,
the poise that real outdoor life can give.

What is it about a true woodsman that instantly compels our respect,
that sets him apart from the men who might be of his class in village or
town and puts him in a class by himself, though he may be exteriorly
rough and have little or no book education? The real Adirondack or the
North Woods guide, alert, clean-limbed, clear-eyed, hard-muscled,
bearing his pack-basket or duffel-bag on his back, doing all the hard
work of the camp, never loses his poise or the simple dignity which he
shares with all the things of the wild. It is bred in him, is a part of
himself and the life he leads. He is as conscious of his superior
knowledge of the woods as an astronomer is of his knowledge of the
stars, and patiently tolerates the ignorance and awkwardness of the
"tenderfoot" from the city. Only a keen sense of humor can make this
toleration possible, for I have seen things done by a city-dweller at
camp that would enrage a woodsman, unless the irresistibly funny side of
it made him laugh his inward laugh that seldom reaches the surface.

To live for a while in the wild strengthens the muscles of your mind as
well as of your body. Flabby thoughts and flabby muscles depart together
and are replaced by enthusiasm and vigor of purpose, by strength of limb
and chest and back. To _have_ seems not so desirable as to _be_. When
you have once come into sympathy with this world of the wild--which
holds our cultivated, artificial world in the hollow of its hand and
gives it life--new joy, good, wholesome, heartfelt joy, will well up
within you. New and absorbing interests will claim your attention. You
will breathe deeper, stand straighter. The small, petty things of life
will lose their seeming importance and great things will look larger and
infinitely more worth while. You will know that the woods, the fields,
the streams and great waters bear wonderful messages for you, and,
little by little, you will learn to read them.

The majority of people who visit the up-to-date hotels of the
Adirondacks, which their wily proprietors call camps, may think they see
the wild and are living in it. But for them it is only a big
picnic-ground through which they rush with unseeing eyes and whose
cloisters they invade with unfeeling hearts, seemingly for the one
purpose of building a fire, cooking their lunch, eating it, and then
hurrying back to the comforts of the hotel and the gayety of hotel life.

At their careless and noisy approach the forest suddenly withdraws
itself into its deep reserve and reveals no secrets. It is as if they
entered an empty house and passed through deserted rooms, but all the
time the intruders are stealthily watched by unseen, hostile, or
frightened eyes. Every form of moving life is stilled and magically
fades into its background. The tawny rabbit halts amid the dry leaves of
a fallen tree. No one sees it. The sinuous weasel slips silently under a
rock by the side of the trail and is unnoticed. The mother grouse
crouches low amid the underbrush and her little ones follow her example,
but the careless company has no time to observe and drifts quickly by.
Only the irrepressible red squirrel might be seen, but isn't, when he
loses his balance and drops to a lower branch in his efforts to miss
nothing of the excitement of the invasion.

This is not romance, it is truth. To think sentimentally about nature,
to sit by a babbling brook and try to put your supposed feelings into
verse, will not help you to know the wild. The only way to cultivate the
sympathy and understanding which will enable you to feel its
heart-beats, is to go to it humbly, ready to see the wonders it can
show; ready to appreciate and love its beauties and ready to meet on
friendly and cordial terms the animal life whose home it is. The wild
world is, indeed, a wonderful world; how wonderful and interesting we
learn only by degrees and actual experience. It is free, but not
lawless; to enter it fully we must obey these laws which are slowly and
silently impressed upon us. It is a wholesome, life-giving, inspiring
world, and when you have learned to conform to its rules you are met on
every hand by friendly messengers to guide you and teach you the ways of
the wild: wild birds, wild fruits and plants, and gentle, furtive, wild
animals. You cannot put their messages into words, but you can feel
them; and then, suddenly, you no longer care for soft cushions and rugs,
for shaded lamps, dainty fare and finery, for paved streets and concrete
walks. You want to plant your feet upon the earth in its natural state,
however rugged or boggy it may be. You want your cushions to be of the
soft moss-beds of the piny woods, and, with the unparalleled sauce of a
healthy, hearty appetite, you want to eat your dinner out of doors,
cooked over the outdoor fire, and to drink water from a birch-bark cup,
brought cool and dripping from the bubbling spring.

You want, oh! how you want to sleep on a springy bed of balsam boughs,
wrapped in soft, warm, woollen blankets with the sweet night air of all
outdoors to breathe while you sleep. You want your flower-garden, not
with great and gorgeous masses of bloom in evident, orderly beds, but
keeping always charming surprises for unexpected times and in
unsuspected places. You want the flowers that grow without your help in
ways you have not planned; that hold the enchantment of the wilderness.
Some people are born with this love for the wild, some attain it, but in
either case the joy is there, and to find it you must seek it. Your
chosen trail may lead through the primeval forests or into the great
western deserts or plains; or it may reach only left-over bits of the
wild which can be found at no great distance from home. Even a bit of
meadow or woodland, even an uncultivated field on the hilltop, will give
you a taste of the wild; and if you strike the trail in the right spirit
you will find upon arrival that these remnants of the wild world have
much to show and to teach you. There are the sky, the clouds, the
lungfuls of pure air, the growing things which send their roots where
they will and not in a man-ordered way. There is the wild life that
obeys no man's law: the insects, the birds, and small four-footed
animals. On all sides you will find evidences of wild life if you will
look for it. Here you may make camp for a day and enjoy that day as much
as if it were one of many in a several weeks' camping trip.

However, this is not to be a book of glittering generalities but, as far
as it can be made, one of practical helpfulness in outdoor life;
therefore when you are told to strike the trail you must also be told
how to do it.

Next: When You Strike the Trail

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