In a few days I will be heading to one of the most non-wilderness places in the country, Key West. I know there are other, busier places with more buildings, more people, more traffic. But South Florida always makes me want to laugh or cry. Cry, mostly, because it has been so hacked and drained and filled and built up and sand brought in to make beaches. Occasionally when I lived there I would glimpse the real Florida struggling to get out: deep in the Fakahatchee Strand, water up to our knees, the unbelievable perfume of a ghost orchid filling the air. On the Florida trail, squishing through cool mud and cypress forests. In the hardwood hammocks, cool even in mid-afternoon, colorful snails crawling up the oaks. A Florida panther, padding across the trail.
But it's few and far between. Most of South Florida is full of things I have tried to avoid all my life: malls, men who wouldn't be caught dead in Carharts, high rises and golf courses. It's hard to get away from the hum of a motor. I feel unable to breathe.
It's certainly not my first choice for travel. But you must get out of your comfort zone now and then, and I have good friends whom I haven't seen in far too long. They live on another key, one that is slower-paced and gentle. It won't be wilderness, but sometimes you have to come out of the wilderness, because everyone you love won't always meet you there. You have to make a choice, whether to limit yourself to only those who will backpack with you on a killer hike to an off trail lake, or to expand your horizons. Everyone has some little glow to them, some irresistable story; you just have to find it.
Besides, leaving this extremely slow-paced valley for awhile will be good for me. I've been hunkered down here waiting out some storms, and it's time to go back out into the world. Bring it on, Key West.