Introduction/Making time for the backcountry

8:31 p.m. on July 9, 2017 (EDT)
Dminer @Culdesac Cowboy
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I am new here and this is one of my first posts.  I grew up and currently reside in central Illinois.  I discovered my love for sleeping under the stars when I was in the Marine Corps for 5 years.  Afterwards, I spent my time getting a degree and when I found time, checking out the local state parks and nature preserves in my area.  After I graduated I was fortunate enough to take a trip to the South Dakota and Colorado.  Both states had immense beauty and Colorado's back country was something I'll never forget.  Those trips caused me to enroll in an Outdoor Recreation program in southern Illinois.  I did a semester in the program had many great experiences hiking in the back country of southern Illinois.  As life would have it, I decided to stop the program and found a job being a wind technician back up in central Illinois.   

 With all that being said, I haven't had a trip to the back country in a long time and it has been calling my name.  Central Illinois doesn't offer much in terms of overnight hiking experiences.  I am curious if anyone else has advice on balancing life and the need to satisfy that adventurous side.  I feel like I would have to take vacation days to get to some of the areas I'd like to explore out west.  I am not opposed to moving and plan to someday, hopefully somewhere west.  I'm hoping a few people have some advice if they live in similar areas.   

I look forwarded to participating quite a bit on this forum.  

9:45 p.m. on July 9, 2017 (EDT)
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Welcome to Trailspace Dminer. I am sure some folks closer to your area will have better advice that I can give. The balance of life's commitments and the opportunity to get to the backcountry is something we all struggle with in different times of life at different scales.

While not in the same area and closer to mountains, I still was not able to break away as much as I liked. However I did find a small area about an hour from the house that is not that impressive for views or hills, but does provide an outlet when I can't get further afield. Some little backyard area to play and test out gear etc may help tide you over between bigger trips further away.

3:09 p.m. on July 10, 2017 (EDT)
Joseph Renow @jrenow
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As Phil pointed is important that you invest heavily in the public lands that are 1-3 hours from where you live and/or work (home-zone) these are the places that you will spend most of your time if you decide to make the outdoors a regular part of your life...without making the outdoors your whole life. Don't look at it as settling...look at it as an opportunity to explore the places never written many ways these places are more surprising and adventurous simply because they are unknown.

The hardest part for a lot of people who don't live where they take pictures for postcards is getting past the images and culture of what a beautiful place looks like. Mountain vistas are great...but no reason to can find just as much beauty in a buggy-hollow if you look and spend time getting to know the place (and how to deal with its quirks). Grand vistas are easy to love...that's why they are so crowded...but my special spots closer to home rival them in their own ways.

Some people make a big fuss about the size of public though being 100 miles from a road is necessarily better than being 10 miles from a road. Silliness...who cares if a highway or road is 10 miles can't tell deep inside the woods...the sense of proximity to people is in your head. I promise just a few miles of woods is enough to get lost and die in if that's your thing...and I have went longer without seeing people in a small state park than I have in deserts and mountains out west (I have waited in a line out west?!?). Our shared stories and images of the outdoors is not reality...reality is experienced...the rest of it are the tools (conceptual and physical) we've made so we can imagine and talk about reality with one another...important not to conflate the two.

4:52 a.m. on July 11, 2017 (EDT)
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"How can the laboring man find time for self-culture?" - Martini Ranch, a new wave band from the 1980s.

Warning: tough love ahead.

If the wilderness is calling, then answer the damn phone already!

I live out in that west you long for, yet also have to use vacation days to backpack.  That's life.

Your lament is widely shared.  As already pointed out, living in proximity to your chosen form of recreation doesn't automatically increase your frequency of enjoyment thereof, unless such activity is treated as a priority.  I live in the South Bay of Los Angeles.  We have great beaches, it is a primary consideration why many move to the area, yet most locals find the time to enjoy them only on an infrequent basis.  Call it the Martini Ranch Syndrome, if you will.  Complacency aggravates the dilemma - we have to get dressed, gather up the beach towels and boom box, stock the ice chest, get in our cars, deal with traffic, find parking, whine whine whine!  Your problem is not lack of proximity to venues, it is making the outdoor lifestyle an imperative worth your effort, and committing big enough chunks of your precious time to get in some R&R. The reality is the hours of drive time to the trailhead is usually only a small portion of the time spent on most backpacking trips.  I usually spend way more time researching and preparing for my trips than the time spent in transit.  Perhaps there is nothing but corn fields within two hours of you, but even Yosemite is many hours from the place most Californians call home - about 7 to 9 hours from my own porch.  To put that in perspective both you and I require a full day to reach this venue.  Since I live in the South Bay I have to drive more than an hour through urban LA before reaching anything local that remotely qualifies as backcountry.  Even "real" backcountry is at least a two drive for me, and I still can see the city.  Yet I manage to get plenty of tree time, despite being a restaurant owner (and you know the crazy time demands my gig entails). 

My advice: If you want it, get off your but and stop making excuses!


9:53 a.m. on July 11, 2017 (EDT)
Dminer @Culdesac Cowboy
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Tough love is always appreciated.  I do not want it to seem like I was dogging on Illinois.  I have found a few spots for day hikes that are well within reach and are spectacular views, but I have not personally found an area open to overnight camping.  I know of a few spots 5-6 hours south like I mentioned in my original post.  I also mentioned the west as if it was the only option.  That was an error on my behalf.  I have other reasons for wanting to move aside from back country locations, those are just a huge plus.  Thanks for the in depth responses.  I greatly appreciate the advice.  

11:37 a.m. on July 11, 2017 (EDT)
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The guy I do most of my mountaineering with is from downtown Chicago.  He is 26-ish years old, lives with his parents, works as a bank teller and goes to school (sorry Rudy if I'm oversharing).  He figures it out so, if it is important to you, you'll make time. 

I may have missed a friend's wedding here and there to go climbing ("sorry bro, I promise I'll go to your next one") but I have embraced the selfish nature of the pursuit.  I need to go. 

12:19 p.m. on July 11, 2017 (EDT)
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I understand and I need to go too. In normal social circles, I'm a little embarrassed to tell people how time I spend in the mountains.  I focus on maintaining my primary relationships and existing obligations but let almost all else slide. I have little interest in or patience for material concerns and one walk around my house proves it. :)

This conversation can lead to world-view discussions for sure; I used to be much more giving of my time to others but now I mostly just give money and have become stingy with my time.

8:51 p.m. on July 11, 2017 (EDT)
John Starnes
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527 forum posts

Dminer -

maybe this will help. 

Just some suggestions but I'd look for something within 3 to 4 hours that you can hit on a regular basis. That is something you can reach after work on Friday and a pleasant drive home on Sunday. And Backpacking is what vacations are all about, a whole week away from people pulling at you from every direction and if you do run into someone on the trail well most are pretty good folks and the rest of them you leave behind with every step. A house is base camp to store your gear. And when you look at is like that you will go.

one thing that helped me find places to hike was simple day trips you will be amazed at the places you'll find. I hope the link helps cause I cannot imagine there is not something closer to you than 5hours! I could not live in a place that only had pavement.

any way welcome to TS and good luck.

9:17 p.m. on July 11, 2017 (EDT)
John Starnes
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527 forum posts

Patman said:


  I focus on maintaining my primary relationships and existing obligations but let almost all else slide. I have little interest in or patience for material concerns and one walk around my house proves it. :)

 amen know just what you mean. I let the relatives know when and where I'm heading say hi once in awhile when I'm home. I have more outdoor gear than furniture. And I'm not so sure I didn't make a mistake selling my camper and buying this house.

June 6, 2020
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