Part-time Crusader

A good friend once shared with me a favorite quote –

“Do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast, a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive [them].” – Edward Abbey

So often I find an overwhelming amount of optimism throughout discussion with environmentally-minded friends and fellow Nicholas School students, despite countless decisions of discouragement and legislation of loss. For even after 210,000 gallons of oil seeped into the South Dakota soil and Nebraska still pursued expansion of the Keystone Pipeline, I heard echoes of encouragement. Even after the ban on elephant trophies was temporarily lifted and the U.S pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord, sighs of frustration were followed by calls for action. Surrounded by a community of those fervent for such rivers, mountains and awesome space, every now and then I find myself eager to simply enjoy the nature we work so hard to protect.

A common thread throughout those studying the environment is their love of the land – an appreciation for those trees they climbed as children or the sandy dunes they grew up admiring. So in an effort to absorb every minute of North Carolina as my second home and explore a different environment, we set out to take in the beauty of the autumn colors and the towering quartzite within our own backyard.

Driving through the foggy morning clouds, we worked our way up and up and up, driving to the top of Pilot Mountain for a day of rock-climbing. One could say we could have timed our trip better than a balmy Sunday with a high of 40 degrees, but decked out in five layers, we gathered our gear and set up the ropes. A motley crew, we came equipped with a heaping supply of fruit snacks, plenty of poor riddles and all the gear for our day of adventuring. Running around between the crowd was Moose, the crag dog, equally as eager to work his way up the mountain alongside us. After climbing up to the top of each route, we were awarded with the arrestingly stunning views of the changing North Carolina colors. For how is one to beat a sport that takes place in such an incredible space. Despite the frozen fingers dexterously gripping to the rock, one by one, we worked our way up the routes. Feet carefully balanced on ledges and fingers crimping any semblance of a hold, one’s body becomes melted into the wall, as you navigate your way around the rocks.

Moose, the crag dog

When you are both literally and figuratively clinging on to the nature around you, you can’t help but to realize the majesty of the places that surround us. With tree names running through my head, even the short hike to where we had set up was full of both beauty and presence. Throughout my semester and my dendrology course, my professor has spoken of the worth in naming. By being able to name the trees and rocks around you, you are no longer a tourist or visitor, but a native.

After a day on the rocks and a walk through the woods, we certainly bagged the peaks, rambling out yonder. For we are part-time crusaders.