OPINION: Enjoying Nature on National Nature Photography Day

<p>&nbsp;A lakeside view from inside the BWCA, 2018. After hiking through the woods, it was finally time to get our canoe in the water and paddle to our campsite. <strong>Tyler Griffith, DN</strong></p>

 A lakeside view from inside the BWCA, 2018. After hiking through the woods, it was finally time to get our canoe in the water and paddle to our campsite. Tyler Griffith, DN

Tyler Griffith is a senior Journalism major and interns for the Daily News. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper. 

Today on National Nature Photography Day, I find myself looking through old pictures I took on my camping trip to the Minnesota/Canada Boundary Waters. For me this was more than just a camping trip, it was a life-changing experience that taught me a lesson that I still reflect on to this day.  

My family has a long history with Mother Nature. In the summers, my dad's side of the family would all retire to their cabins in Minnesota to spend time together on the lakes. Growing up I heard many stories about these summers in Minnesota, but I never got the chance to experience it like my father did. The cabins were eventually sold during a hard time in the family. I feared I’d never get the experience. That fear subsided in the summer of 2018 when my father told me we were making a trip up north to visit his brother for a camping trip.  

I think that everyone should experience a stay in nature. I'm not talking about walking out to your backyard and watching the birds for a few minutes. I mean an extended stay in the environment, with nothing but Mother Nature surrounding you. 

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) stretches across 1,000,000+ acres of land located in the Superior National Forest in Northeastern Minnesota. Established in 1978,  BWCA is protected by the BWCA Wilderness Act which restricts mining, logging and motorized vehicles within the million acres of wilderness. Campers can explore the more than 2000 campsites, paddle 1200 miles of canoe routes, or hike across the 12 designated trails. 

The time finally came. We packed and started the drive up north. The three of us would spend the next four days in the wild living off the land, carrying what we needed in on our backs. 

To get to our campsite, we had to travel roughly two-and-a-half miles. The first stretch by foot, the next by canoe. Once we arrived at our campsite, we had to pitch the tent, line our fishing poles and prepare our dinner for the night. The first night’s dinner consisted of Hamburger Helper, which was brought with us in our packs. That would be the last meal that wasn’t directly from nature. We went to bed and dreamed about the fish that we would catch the next day. 

I awoke to the morning sun leaking through the walls of our tent. By habit, I immediately reached for my phone to see what notifications I got over night, but there was absolutely no reception. My screen was blank. That is when it set in for me. I would be in the middle of the forest with no contact with anybody but those who hiked in with me. No longer would I be able to aimlessly scroll through social media when I was bored. 

Uncertainty began to set in. My phone felt like an extension of myself and on any other normal day, I’d spend my downtime on it. 

The uncertainty subsided and the next few days are now known as some of the best days of my life. We didn’t have a set schedule, nowhere to be and no one to see. All we had to do was make sure we caught enough fish to stay full and enjoy each other’s company. 

Everything we did in the woods had a direct impact on what the outcome of the trip would be. If we wasted time during daylight, we may not have enough firewood and food for the night. This made me reflect on the choices that we make in our everyday lives. Choices, no matter how big or small, have a direct impact on what our outcome will be. 

These forests have been around long before I was born and they will be around long after I'm gone. This made me reflect on life, as the time we spend on earth is relatively short. Realizing that our time here is limited forced me to be more conscious of my decisions in life. 

In March, a lot of state parks and campgrounds were closed to stop the spread of COVID-19. According to Indiana’s “Back On Track” plan, campsites were supposed to open by May 24 while following social distancing guidelines. State parks are allowed to open, with few facilities and services restricted, making it the perfect time to reconnect with nature. 

In today’s society it feels that everything is so centered around technology that sometimes we can’t imagine our lives without it. I spent my time in the woods soaking up the world that was a few feet in front of me, instead of inches ahead of me on my screen.  

Technology is very valuable, don't get me wrong, but there are a lot of distractions involved as well. If we don't put it down every once in a while we can easily forget the beauty of the natural world.

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