Their stories are American lore. Long before I was an adventuresome woman-in-the-wilderness I was enamored by their lives. I read a steady stream of their biographies throughout my childhood...and even won some awards for various essays I wrote about Sacajawea in middle school. From my earliest days I wanted to be like them. I wanted to discover and adventure and go places other people didn't, couldn't, or wouldn't. I used to climb the trees in my yard and stare south, wondering how far I could walk in one day if I just went. All day. Could I make it to Lansing?
Today I know I could make it to Lansing (42 miles away) and probably much further. But I still wonder, in their time would I have been as they were? Let's face it, running a race on a well marked course where people hand you food and water is pretty tame. Even thru-hiking, where you can buy supplies every few days, is nothing like bushwhacking across a continent...or flying around the world.
In the days of Google Earth, there are few untrammeled places left in this world. It would be difficult for me to find an unexplored place to go. Most feats have been accomplished. There truly isn't anything new under the sun. Perhaps that is why I do what I do. I have to turn the discovery, the exploration of the unknown, inward.
I'm not the fastest runner. I'm not the best at orienteering. But, I know my limits. And I'm also willing to push those limits...all the time. I want to know what it feels like to be broken; and I want to know what it's like to reach that point and continue on. There is an unknown wilderness inside each of us. These "what-we're-made-of" places are seldom reached–just like the dark recesses of rugged mountain valleys. It is a choice to go there. It takes courage to enter and attempt to find your way to the other side.
I've realized that today, to be an adventurer like my heroines, I can't simply pick a place on a map. Going there will not make me an adventurer. Instead I will find the place on the map and tackle it in a way that will force me deep into myself. My challenge will be my own, no one else's. What is hard for me will be easy for some, what I find simple would teach others great lessons.
I think of Amelia readying her plane, studying her maps. I imagine Sacajawea walking long miles yearning to see something familiar. Today I find that the terrain is simply the catalyst for true exploration and courage, but...
Perhaps it has always been so.