Time spent in the great outdoors can awaken a desire for knowledge in many disparate fields. From astronomy to bird watching, nature has plenty to teach those willing to learn.
Star light, star bright
The spectacle of the night sky revealed in its true brilliance, away from the lights of the city, turns many campers into amateur astronomers. Without any optical aids at all, you should be able to spot a variety of constellations — traditional star patterns, such as Centaurus and the Southern Cross — and follow the nightly wanderings of five of the planets. If you have binoculars, you can see five or 10 times as many stars as with the naked eye, and such wonders as the moons of Jupiter.
Get the lay of the land
Many trails have a close connection to early European explorers: the tracks themselves may have been first hacked out by them. In other places, settlers have established particular traditions associated with the landscape.
Books on local history, folklore and traditions will give you background information to enrich your experiences. First Nations peoples have left a remarkable imprint on our wild landscapes and in many regions remain a vital presence. Aboriginal artefacts are visible reminders of ancient and complex cultures. As our awareness of the richness and extent of these cultures grows, so even the most remote and seemingly desolate regions can be seen as part of a special heritage. The opportunity to share in this by briefly living close to the land is one of the greatest experiences the outdoors can offer.
Spot the wildlife
Taking a break to enjoy the view after a morning’s climb can be among the most exhilarating moments of hiking. It also provides an ideal time to orient your map to your surroundings.
One of the bonuses of being in the wild is the opportunity to observe wildlife, particularly birds. A field guide allows you to identify species that may be less common than the easily recognisable ones and knowing where to look makes for successful animal spotting.
As well as hiking and camping, enjoying the outdoors can encompass many other activities. Emulating the artists of pre-camera days can be a creative and absorbing diversion. Most importantly, take the time to relax and enjoy the nature that surrounds you before returning to the hustle and bustle of everyday life.