Yogi Berra – Outdoor Philosopher

Yogi Berra reading his autobiography. Tony Kubek photo.

I have long called Yogi Berra my favorite philosopher.

And he is a philosopher. Do not doubt.

Yogi Berra made astute observations about life that are quoted by the everyday person.  And even computer scientists co-opting his brand of insights.

The Yogiisms seem odd at first. But upon closer examination and pondering, they provide a guide to life that is profound in their succinct wisdom.  Our very own American Zen Master whose koans will be remembered generations from now.

Oh, sure.

Kant, Confucious, Russel, and others are studied by college students and coffee shop dwellers in depth.

Coffee, philosophy, and a Dad joke. All in one. You’re welcome!  From Etsty

But how many philosophers are in the Baseball Hall of Fame?

Many of these Yogiisms apply to the outdoor word.

I find myself explaining concepts, situations, or experiences where the Tao of Yogi seems to apply for outdoor pursuits.

With those thoughts in mind, here are some Yogi insights that I’ve found of interest over the years.

***

Of course, I have to start with one of the two most famous Yogi quotes. When I follow the usual path, I tend to find life is lacking a certain vitality. When I did take the fork in the road? Well, I moved to Colorado, walked for many weeks or months at a time, traveled across the country, and ended up in Moab.

I took the fork in the road a few times during my life.

And, knock on wood, taking the fork in the road has worked out well.

 

From Public Domain Photos.

The other of the two most famous Yogiisms. And probably the first most people heard. And an apt saying.

Getting to the summit of a mountain is only half the journey.  And an obvious point to be learned from this observation.

But when life throws a curveball, plans are not necessarily derailed. Adapt, continue, and make the best of it.

There are still more mountains to climb, vistas to see, and the occasional local craft brew to drink.

And sometimes (usually?), despite the curveballs, the end goal is obtained.

 

A Yogiism I’ve discussed before. I can’t see buying expensive luggage.

Oh, I probably won’t impress anyone in the Admiral’s Club with my surplus duffle bag or laundry bag.

But the beat up duffle bag swallows my gear and takes a further beating.

And if I am flying one way, a large laundry bag is something I can get rid of without a second thought.

After all, I only use them when I travel.

 

A long journey seems daunting.

Miles and miles of hiking to go from the start to the finish of the journey.

But if you break a thru-hike or similar journey down into a series of five day +/- trips, the journey is more easily comprehended.

And this concept does not just apply to longer journeys.

If you are having fun, say hiking above treeline in the La Sals, the long way certainly doesn’t seem like it!

 

The fine art of navigation.

If you can read a map, use a compass, and plan out a trip, may outdoor wonders and delights await.

If you can’t use these tools, the path you find yourself on may be different from you initially planned.

You hike into the wrong drainage from the summit. Or you take the wrong side canyon.

You didn’t know where you wanted to be going. And you ended up someplace else.

And if you find yourself in this situation, pull out your map, plot out a route, and make sure you know where you are going.

 

A disaster is rarely just one mistake. A disaster is a series of mistakes that that equal one big snafu.

You drive a little too far up the winter trailhead.  The snow is fresh so you sink in quite abit and can’t get any traction. No shovel is in the trunk. And the snowshoes you are trying to dig out with just aren’t cutting it. And being a snowy day, few people are around to get you unstuck.  And the skier who took this photo is more amused then helpful. 😉

Or, and this seems to happen every year, (a theoretical) you plan an ambitious thru-hike.  Your first.

You’ve spent many hours on forums asking questions and researching gear. All your gear is picked out and posted on a spreadsheet of some sort.  The spreadsheet contains DCF wonders, the lightest trail runners you can find, and expensive clothes that are seemingly magical.

You then take off for a trip of a lifetime.

Except you have never used any of your gear in the field. And that sub-10lb base pack weight you are proud of? Well, most of those items are for three-season use by experienced backpackers. And you decided to start the Appalachian Trail in mid-March to avoid crowds..and the South in March is practically tropical! Right?

Some mistakes you learn from and recover. Those are good mistakes. See above about “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

Some mistakes?

Well, you get the idea.

Or you get a bus ride to the nearest airport and a flight back home after two weeks instead.

 

After nearly twenty years of living in Colorado’s Front Range, Yogi’s astute observation seems particularly true.

Among my circle of friends, few people bother going to the Maroon Bells or the nearby Conundrum Hot Springs anymore.

Chasm Lake in Rocky Mountain Park on a Saturday? Fugheddaboudit.

And in my new home, I have yet to meet anyone who advocates going to Delicate Arch.

People new to an area tend to congregate in the popular spots. But as a person explores the area (and perhaps get to be a touch curmudgeonly? 😉 ), the popular favorites lose their allure.

 

There is LOST and then there is “lost.”

During the lower case lost, something as simple as not finding the trail in an overgrown meadow happens.

But you still move forward. Somehow keeping to your mileage goals.

Then there is the more philosophical.  The good time is you are simply enjoying yourself despite being misplaced.

You are not quite where you want to be, but the mountain meadow sure is fine. Or you bumped into an unexpected lake.  Or that aspen stand is exploring with golden color.

Yes, you are indeed making good time.

 

My second favorite Yogiism.

No days of rain would be dull. Easily hiked routes would not pose any challenge and would not be memorable. And if everything went according to plan every time, well, it would be unusual.

We thrive, learn, and grow on challenges.  And we remember these experiences that shaped us in the end.

No doubt many graduate thesis, papers, books, poems, and songs are written about the imperfection of perfection.

But Yogi captured the theme far more succinctly and memorably.

 

And, finally, my favorite Yogiism of them all.

Some of my most memorable trips did not involve many miles per day hiked. Or climbing up a mountain ridge. Or even sitting by an alpine lake nestled somewhere against the Continental Divide

The trips involved being in the Sagebrush Sea.

An area many people might find boring.

But look a little more, and an intriguing area reveals itself.

Sit and watch the sunset and watch the colors play upon the horizon and the rock formations nearby.  Sit longer, and many distinctive bird calls make themselves known. A natural concerto for you and partner’s ears alone.  In the distance, you can spy a herd of wild horses.  And, when timed right, the wildflowers splash color on the lush grasses of Spring.

Much like a painting, the longer you sit and watch, the more details are revealed.

And even when walking all day, subtleties are revealed for the observant. The smell of sage in the desert at twilight just as the breeze picks up slightly. Or the damp and earthy smell of a New England Fall.  Or seeing the droplets of water on each fallen aspen leaf during Autumn. Then there is the sound of fresh snow falling as you glide along the winter path.

A lot is seen just by watching.

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