Often, before I go hiking, snowshoeing, kayaking, or scuba diving, I ask myself whether the activity will be worth the effort of preparing. The weather might be windy, snowing or raining. I might need to get started on my journey before dawn. I try to be careful and plan for the unexpected, taking a first aid kit, all the appropriate gear for the environment, food and water, a light. And duct tape, an essential for everyoutdoor expedition. Every year the preparation seems more difficult than the last. Despite all this, I always find that the effort expended is worth it.
Nature has an indescribable majesty and beauty. Even the same place can be experienced differently at different times: a hike might take me through a flower meadow one time and a frosty autumn scene the next, the creeks might be rushing streams or mere trickles. The snow might be mush that will soak my clothes or sparkling icy crystals that will scour my skin if I slide over it.
Watching the sun rise or set over water or mountain peaks, seeing a mountain goat or a weasel or an octopus in its natural habitat is always a deeply moving experience. Underwater, I often meet creatures I can only identify later from a reference book or website.
In the North Cascades, I’ve witnessed avalanches that I used in my most recent novel, Cascade. The slot canyons and natural bridges and rocky trails I explored in Utah became the setting for Endangered. At Mount Rainier, I nearly collided with a bear cub on an overgrown trail. That ended up in my novel, Bear Bait. The underwater antics of sea lions in the Galapagos were featured in several scenes in Undercurrents. Physical challenges and encountering unexpected difficulties, well, those are character development, for both myself and my characters. All good stories have conflict. Ultimately, nature brings us closer to ourselves in ways we sometimes don’t expect it to. So when I’m thinking it might be nice to just stay home and drink my coffee and pet my cats, I tell myself “Get a grip, Pam. Start packing, load that kayak, find all your scuba gear. You don’t know what might happen. Just do it; you’ll be glad you did.”
And so far, I always have been.