Photograph by Eli Warren

Being outside is essential—it’s a call delivering us from our homes, our desks, our man caves. Nature offers space and clarity, a reminder that life is much bigger than any nagging deadline, argument, or neurosis. Time outside offers pause, a moment to catch our breath, to calm down. It’s often our best therapy.

Going into nature isn’t just a physical act; it is spiritual instinct. Being outdoors helps us to untangle our lives, see the line more clearly. Feel the current. Catch the bounty. Katie Cahn, a fly-fishing guide at Headwaters Outfitters near Brevard, North Carolina, sees it as meditation as much as sport: “The cold and rainy days are the best,” she says. “There’s something about putting your mind and body through those elements and ending the day with a beer and story to tell your loved ones.” Similarly, Steve Grose, fly-fishing expert at Luthi’s Outfitters in Greenville, offers, “I just love the experience of fly-fishing. It’s very relaxing. It’s the opportunity to leave all your troubles and worries somewhere else for a little while.” Time in nature quiets the perpetual mind-static that plagues us.

Dr. Matt Crumpler felt a call for the woods during college. As a sophomore at Clemson working toward medical school, Crumpler spent many nights in the library or the lab. During a study break, he found a book on the Appalachian Trail and decided almost immediately to change course, pausing his collegiate career to take a hike. “My experience on the AT was vast, varied, personal, and collective. I experienced the best and worst times of my life out there. It was a personal journey that provided a great opportunity for adventure, freedom, solitude, and introspection. At the same time, it was an incredible social experience. I was surrounded by a ‘rag tag fellowship’ of other thru-hikers who came from all walks of life. We had a common goal and a common calling that drew us out of routine life and into a shared adventure,” he says.

Nature is often our best teacher. In the woods, our path might not be clear, but we push forward trusting the way. In the river, the current runs quickly, sometimes violently, but also so sweetly and serenely. In fresh air and sunshine, we feel right where we should be, with no agenda and, if we’re lucky, no service. When we head for the mountains or the water, we’re doing more than something physical. We’re freeing ourselves.

Assistant editor Abby Keith rises to the demands of her job, as she assists Paul Mehaffey on our photo shoot with Steve Grose


Blair Knobel, Editor-in-Chief

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