Eternal Exploration

Geoff Roes writes of finding eternal exploration, especially close to home.

By on October 23, 2013 | 8 comments

I’ve moved around more in my adult life than just about anyone I know. I’ve lived in no fewer than 11 different places in the past eight years, including four different major moves (more than 500 miles from anywhere I had lived before). In many ways, moving so often is tedious, frustrating, and exhausting. But from the standpoint of running, it has been great to move around so much, and have the luxury of always having new and interesting places to explore on foot. Over time, this interest in exploring has become one of my favorite things about all the running that I’ve done.

I’m currently in the final of four years moving back and forth from Alaska in the summer to Colorado the rest of the year where my wife is going to school. Despite this transient lifestyle, though, until a couple months ago it had been over three years since we moved somewhere where my immediate surroundings were new to me. We’re currently living in a place in the foothills outside of Boulder, no more than 10 miles from places we’ve lived in the past few years, but the immediate area is very much novel and unique.

At the end of this school year, we will be moving back to Alaska to live year round quite likely for several years. As much as I’m very excited to get back to Alaska full time and to ‘settle down’ a little bit, I’m also very excited right now to be living somewhere where I can go out my door and wander around on foot and so easily find new things every day. I’ve still been struggling to find any kind of consistency with my running due to continued compromised health. But over time, my body feels more and more often well enough to get out and wander around most every day. Whether it’s going out for a run, a bike ride, an evening walk, or whatever other form I find myself using to get outside, I’ve found it to be very refreshing, exciting, and satisfying to explore new places most every day.

A few days ago, I went out for an evening walk with my wife and her daughter. It wasn’t a planned adventure. We drove down the road to pick some apples that we had seen growing on a tree on the side of the road. When the apples turned out to be dried out and mealy from too many recent cold nights, we improvised and decided to drive around until we found somewhere to go for a walk. At the end of a quiet, rural, gravel road, we found an unmarked trail that took us quickly into a magical little gulch with a light dusting of snow on the ground and perfect autumn colors on the aspen trees. It wasn’t by any means the most enjoyable trail I’ve ever traveled, but in that particular moment, it was exactly what we were looking for. Until that time, we had no idea it was there even though we live only a few miles from this location.

As much as this exploring of new trails, mountains, valleys, rivers, meadows, and forests is largely a component of living in new places, I’ve also come to realize that this is something I have even when I’m living in the same place for several months or years. I’m really excited right now to be living somewhere so new to me that I can so easily go out and have a completely new experience, but I’m even more excited that all this moving around has taught me how important it is to me to explore these new places. I live for those moments of going somewhere on foot that I’ve never been before. Right now this is really easy for me to do, and all the energy that I am gaining from doing so will be stocked up to help do this even if I choose to live in one place for several years to come.

I guess this is the beauty of exploring the world around us on foot. The more you do it, the more you want to do it, and thus the more motivated and capable you are to do it. It’s not always easy if you are somewhere that you’ve been dozens of times previously, but you can always slow things down, look around, look for something new, and go explore it. As soon as you do this, you will find yourself wanting more. The satisfaction of doing this will make you want to look for more, and no matter how many times you have been down the same trail, you will begin to find that there is always a new way to experience old locations. Wander, get lost, stop, and sit down, it’s actually very easy to make the outdoor world feel like a very novel and unique place because, no matter how many times you’ve been in a particular place, it’s always a little different each time you go back.

You don’t have to move around all the time as I have for many years to have these novel experiences. The moving has made it a lot easier for me to realize how much I value new experiences in the outdoors, but this has done nothing but make it obvious to me that I really don’t need to be in a new place to have a new experience. Every time I go out looking for something new, I find even more than I imagined I would. Living in a new place right now, this is all flowing very easily for me. But I also look forward to going back to Alaska next year and using the energy I’ve gained from the novelty of the land surrounding me now to find new experiences every day in places I’ve been hundreds or thousands of times before.

Geoff Roes
Geoff Roes has set numerous ultramarathon course records including the Western States and Wasatch 100 milers. Salomon, Clif, Drymax, Ryders Eyewear, and Atlas Snowshoes all support Geoff's running. You can read more about his running on his blog Fumbling Towards Endurance and join him at his Alaska Mountain Ultrarunning Camps.