Almost Heaven, West Virginia

Everything started with a windows-down, Rusted Root “Send Me on My Way” jam session set across a crisp blue autumn sky. We raced through a winding and shadowed mountain highway snaking through the forested landscape. The sun spread its arms as wide as can be while West Virginia welcomed us with a smile. Thus began my first experience with the Outdoor Adventure Club (OAC) at the University of Dayton.

OAC organizes a number of camping and hiking trips across the Midwest throughout the year, many of them one-day events on weekends throughout the school year. Extended adventures are also offered during longer breaks in the academic year, such as the trip I attended to West Virginia for fall break. Our trip was a 4-day, 3-night hiking and camping excursion in the Dolly Sods Wilderness, located in the Allegheny Mountains as part of the Monongahela National Forest.

At first my plan was to attend this trip and write about it for this blog, but I find myself struggling to string the correct combination of words together to explain my experience fully. Please forgive me if I come across as preachy or some sort of uncanny hippy, but all I can figure is this: In a society of constant communication through email, text, and social media, I feel far more isolated than in the highland wilderness of West Virginia. Nature fully encapsulated me in its simplistic and yet complex beauty of color, sound, and structure. I had my boots, the earth, and the sky, and there was no separation between. The same can be said for my rugged comrades.

On this trip, I came to know a group of people who share my fascination and delight in the natural world. I came to know an assortment of personalities that left me feeling everything on the emotional spectrum, not to mention laughing my ass off. I came to know my fellow OACers as I came to know the autumn covered earth around me. The cultivation of this, in the words of a comrade, “Altogether left me shaking with happiness.”

If you find no correlation between my words and the natural earth for yourself, I can only encourage you to seek this connection with nature. Neither anyone nor myself can formulate a set of words to acquire this connection. Simply give nature a chance. It may just come up and tickle your ear.  

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