I woke up at four this morning to drive to the wilderness to meet a guy I had never met before. Before you think I was up to do an early morning drug deal or anything; I met this guy on Facebook, so nothing could be shady about this. Right? The guy in question was a few minutes late for our rendezvous due to taking the wrong highway, but when he finally arrived we proceeded with our business. Our business on this morning? Summit Mt. Charleston, all 11,916 feet of her. What did you think I was out doing at such a weird hour? Anyhow pervs, Paul arrived, we greeted each other, and we started our march up the hill. I had literally met him at that moment. He was visiting the southwestern United States from Scotland. He told me he was doing two and half weeks hiking and running throughout this part of the country. We did meet on a Facebook group, so today was my first official internet hook-up. We started talking about everything, especially America. Man does this guy love America. He was explaining that he wanted to become a citizen and how hard it was to do so. I was so intrigued by his love of this country. It made me appreciate it a bit more just listening to him explain what this country has to offer. When we finally got off the America lovefest, I started to ask him about life in Scotland. He went into detail about life in Scotland, with an emphasis on the trail running/hiking scene. He was talking all the trail there were and then he dropped one of the most beautiful phrases I’ve ever heard, “Freedom to Roam”.
I at first thought “Freedom to Roam” was an abstract theory he was going to explain to me as a way of living. Then he explained to me what it really meant, and it wasn’t abstract at all. This was law of the land. The Freedom to Roam statute gives every person the right to “roam” wherever they feel to exercise or for recreation. What this means is, if someone wants to go for a hike or a run there is essentially no private property. Any person can freely go wherever they want on people’s land if they are actively exercising. According to Paul, this also means you can pitch a tent for a night on someone’s land. Your stay must be temporary, and you are not able to use somebody’s land for your economic gain. This is amazing to me. I know the naysayers may be thinking that they don’t want a bunch of strangers on their land. I see their point. The counterpoint is what I did today, at 5:30 this morning I was alone in a parking lot waiting for stranger, by 6:30 I had an acquaintance and by noon I had a friend. Imagine walking out of your ranch or farm and seeing a “stranger” finishing a run and bedding down for the night. Knowing the farmers, I know, they would approach, offer a meal and a drink to the stranger. Poof, like a David Copperfield trick the “stranger” would be gone.
Some might think of the Freedom to Roam as a metaphor for open borders or some other politically motivated jargon. Not me. When Paul was talking about it, the first thing I thought was running the hell out my dad’s farm neighbor, Terry’s, land. Only because I stared at that land for three decades wondering what was across that fence. Imagine the possibilities of adventure just following the words of the B-52’s: “Roam if you want to, Roam around the World, without wings, without wheels, without anything but the love we feel”.
The other thing I realized hearing this amazing phrase was that the editors of the Academy Award winning movie Braveheart cut out an important line from the script. If you remember, as William Wallace was being stretched by horses, disemboweled and about to be beheaded he let out one last word. A word so powerful it quite literally killed the evil king of England. A word that I now realize was supposed to be a phrase. William with his dying breath cried out “FREEDOM”, little did I know they cut out his true dream. His dream of all of us running and adventuring through each other’s land and lives. He true dream of “FREEDOM” ……”TO ROAM”.