Venture: What I learned outside in 2010

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

During your first night outdoors by yourself, everything looks like a bear.

Old stumps, shrubs, dark patches of leaves. Even trees, provided there's a substantial knot at the right height.

I learned this in April in a remote section of Wayne National Forest, where I spent my first solo night outdoors. I pitched my tent on a tall ridge during a torrential downpour and spent half the night yelling, clapping and throwing a pile of rocks at imaginary beasts that never attacked.

This year, I also rode my first ATV, tried windsurfing and climbed my first bouldering route. I hunted for snapping turtles, snorkeled the Mesoamerican Reef and, after a year of trying, harvested wild ginseng.

I'm not the most reflective person, but in 2010, each trip came with a lesson.

I remember two days down the Kokosing River in August with my roommate Daniel. We had no schedule. We drifted along with no way to tell time and kept rolling out of the boat to splash into the water.

I learned to do things that don't have a purpose. It wasn't even hot.

This year, I also remembered to find silence, solitude and time to fish.

When visiting family in August, I woke up before 6 a.m. to wade a section of the Chagrin River in a small town called Gates Mills, a few miles from where I grew up. Mist was still rising from the stream, and the only sounds I heard were rapids tumbling from a dam and hounds baying at a nearby hunt club.

The Ohio winter is gray today, but that moment is etched in time. It's vivid and tangible, like a mosquito suspended in a polished amber orb. I didn't catch anything, but I went home and had scrambled eggs and two beers before noon.

My parents taught me to love the outdoors. From Cleveland's sprawling concrete, they moved me and my sister to a place where I could build bike trails, play sports and get lost in the woods.

This year, I've learned that I'm forever in their debt.

For more about his travels and travails, check out "John Ross Goes Places: 10 Memorable Days in the Ohio Outdoors"