River Reflections: The Timeless Value of Wilderness Adventures

By Matt Mittan

In the heart of our youth, nestled among the Lily-pad tangled waters of a remote island on an undeveloped lake, my friends and I discovered the magic of true escapism. These were the days when we would boldly conquer that secluded patch of paradise, pitching our tents for weeks at a time. It was a journey of unbridled camaraderie, where the shrub lined shores and cool dark waters were our playground, and nature was our canvas. As the campfires burned deep into the night, we etched memories that would forever be bound to our hearts.

Our island expeditions weren’t just about camping; they were about venturing into the wilderness, living by the rhythm of the lake, and learning about the value of friendships and the art of survival. Of course we didn’t look at it that way at the time. It was just a fun break from our regular routines. There were no roads to get there. Only long paddles back across a remote lake, around long shrub islands and across a sea of thick water plants until we would get to a single island rising out of the water. We called it “Wild Island”.

So many funny things happened during our trips. On one memorable night, our peaceful slumber was shattered by uninvited guests – a band of curious otters. Underneath the moon’s gentle glow, these playful critters ransacked our supplies, turning our campsite into their own personal treasure trove. One audacious otter even dashed across a friend’s sleeping bag, sending him leaping up in bewilderment. While it may not have been the best way for him to wake up, it gave the rest of us laughs that lasted decades.

Then there was that unforgettable evening, where a touch of youthful curiosity got the better of one of our companions. A closed can of baked beans found its way into the heart of our campfire, with all of us dashing for cover to avoid the consequences. Within moments, the tranquil night was shattered by a loud boom and as the fire exploded into a frenzied shower of hot coals, we all hollered out in primal howls from behind the cover of various trees.

But beyond these comical misadventures, our time on that island was a masterclass in the art of bonding with nature – and with each other. There’s a profound beauty in taking a leap of faith, leaving the conveniences of modern life behind, and embracing the simple joys of living by the lake’s edge. It’s in those cold swims in the middle of the lake, the endless hours spent by the campfire trading stories, and the collective groans as we vented about whatever angst filled issue was bothering us that day.

These island adventures taught us the true value of getting out into the wild with friends. It’s about creating memories that are etched in your soul, shared laughter that reverberates through the years, and the irreplaceable bonds forged in the crucible of wilderness living. It’s about embracing the unplanned moments, the otter intrusions, the exploding campfires, and realizing that these are the stories that will be told and retold around campfires for generations to come.

In a world that seems to spin faster with each passing day, the memories of these island escapes still serve as our refuge, our sanctuary. They were a reminder that, no matter where life takes us, the value of true friendships and the joy of embracing the great outdoors will forever hold a place in our hearts – even long after we stop making them together.

Matt Mittan is a licensed guide in NC and is Owner of BizRadio.US, a 24/7 Business Talk Station based out of Asheville, NC.