Picture of the Okeefenokee Swamp with Cypress trees and water.Since a young boy, I've been an explorer. I love the outdoors and everything it has to offer. Adventures in the outdoors kept my sanity when I worked in The Big City. Now I write about those adventures and enjoy them again and again through the inspiration they give me. Exploring a new lake, forest, or meadow is to step into another world. A world where anything can happen. A place where treasure lurks in hidden places and danger threatens from all directions. There is a sense of excitement when exploring new places. You never know what you will discover there. What delights you will find. Or what new experience will set your heart to racing like a teenager kissing their first love.

Throughout my life, I've gone places the greatest majority of people never go, and I haven't even scratched the surface of the places I still want to explore or the adventures I still want to experience.

When exploring a new place, it's best to start with a bit of caution in your head. Get to know the lay of the land. Have the tools you need to explore: compass, map, walking stick. Dress for the weather, and the weather that might show itself when least expected. Have the things you need in your pockets and your pack, be it a day pack for an short hike, or a full-size backpack complete with tent, sleeping roll, and supplies for a week.

Learn to take your time so you don't miss anything. Taking your time requires planning. If your ultimate destination lies at the end of a 30 mile trail into the mountains, it's probably best to plan for three or four days of walking. If you're in amazing shape, you could probably do it in one, but why? You'll spend all that day pushing yourself to make your goal and miss so many things that lie along your path.

Outdoor exploration isn't just for summer. Fall brings incredible color to the north woods, spring brings color to mountain meadows and arid deserts. Winter is a contrast of browns, grays, and whites in the north, and less subtle contrasts of green in the south.

Choose explorations that make you step out of your comfort zone a little.

Take a trip to Southern Georgia and delve into the Okefenokee Swamp. Rent a boat and discover cypress forests, birds you've never seen before, and water so dark you're surprised when that log floating over yonder is an alligator. They sink out of sight when you approach, and reappear after you've passed -- right over the top of them. There's snakes that hang from trees and swim in the water, and critters that hide in the light of day and only come out at night.

Have you ever seen a possum family, Mom and eight youngins, all hanging from the same branch by their tail?

Head out west and explore mountain meadows. See elk munching on fresh spring sprouts, mountain bluebirds and if you're really lucky, a tawny mountain lion with a pack of cubs. Take binoculars so you can look across the valley or peer into the black timber. Look at the aspen with their quaking leaves. Breath fresh mountain air, still cold enough wake you up and make you feel alive.

Have a snowball fight in July.

Pack a lunch and plenty of water, then take a hike in the late-afternoon desert. From afar it looks dead and forbidding. Up close and you find signs of life. Birds that nest in spiny cactus and vultures that circle looking for carrion. Little critters that leave little tracks. Rabbits, mice, desert rats. Humble creatures that don't just eke out a living in the harsh environment, but are so well adapted to the desert they'd die anywhere else.

Look. Don't Touch. Those cactus flowers are pretty, but they're surrounded by needle-sharp spines and protected by law.

Head into a wilderness area like Ontario's Quetico Park with a canoe, tent, and fishing rod. Spend the next week or two exploring the lakes and rivers, and living on food that you catch yourself. You'll hate having to leave and wonder at your sanity for doing so. Loons call on the lakes at night. There's a billion trillion stars to look at, and the Aura Borealis lights up the sky in a show you'll never forget, all to the background music of loons and wolves.

Lay on your sleeping bag to watch and listen to the greatest show on earth.

Get out of your rut and go exploring. Your explorations into the wilderness will change your life and how you perceive the world.

Visit my Adventure Blog Saturday Sunshine to read about some of my adventures and a few hair-raising tales.

Photo Credit: Okeefenokee Swamp by Windowseats87 at Wikimedia Commons.