A Pittsburgher in Houston

As a child, I had a great affinity for the outdoors and adventure. Perhaps it was simply because I was a member of a pre-internet-pervasive generation or that my parents generally discouraged watching TV, but I spent most of my early childhood recreation outside. All of the neighborhood kids and I would constantly be gallivanting through each other’s backyards, climbing trees, riding bikes, making club houses. Even as I grew up and my family outgrow my childhood home and moved away from my neighborhood friends, I didn’t outgrow this sense of loving the freedom of the outdoors.

At my new house, none of the new neighbors had children who were my age and had my same interests.  At the age of 13, even my older sister was starting to lose interest in “playing outside.” I resorted to playing in the woods by myself.

The backyard of the new house we moved to had about an acre of woods on the property. These woods connected to all the other wooded areas of the other houses’ backyards.  Essentially in my twelve year old mind, endless land to explore. I spent countless days after school or summer afternoons heading to the woods by myself and going on nature hikes. I would attempt to build shelters or climb trees. Sometimes I would just sit and take it all in. Other times I would see how far I could walk through an area with dense brush before I became too tangled and decided to turn around.

Unfortunately as I got older and become more focused on my academics and extracurricular activities, spending time enjoying the great outdoors took a backseat. Additionally, my parents’ and sister’s idea of a vacation was usually going to a beach or tropical place of sorts and relaxing.  (I’m more of a woods and mountain terrain kind of girl.) So even in my free time, there wasn’t much outdoor exploring going on.

Moving on to college, I began to meet more friends with similar interests and learn that you can spend your free time doing things you like and it doesn’t have to be what your family likes. The caveat here being during most of the four years of college I had almost no free time.  I was able to have a few trips to hike in West Virginia, white water raft in Ohiopyle, and ski in Seven Springs etc.

Now, I find myself living in Houston, Texas. It’s been over a year. This is the first time I’ve lived in a city of this size. I work 40+ hours a week and live in a metropolitan part of town in a one bedroom apartment without a yard or even a porch. Transitioning to this largely indoor/urban lifestyle has been a bit disappointing.

I try my best to sustain outdoor activities. I attend a fitness bootcamp at a nearby park and I go for runs along the bayou. But that’s the extent of it. It’s a different kind of scenery though. It’s nothing like climbing up a rugged mountainside and looking out on a spectacular view.

Even on the weekends there isn’t anything in the immediate vicinity that screams adventure. There are some wildlife sanctuaries that make for a nice walk or some very flat parks that make for a nice run, but there are no great hiking opportunities. West of Houston 3-4 hours are some decent state parks that have a decent scenery but it’s all a bit lackluster in my opinion. Also driving 3 hours every weekend just for a mediocre experience, isn’t ideal.

While living in Western, PA for 22 years of my life I failed to take advantage of all the wonderful Appalachian landscapes available for adventure just a few hours from my home. There wasn’t enough time and for the early years I was subject to family’s interests. Now that I’ve moved away, I regret it and resent Houston for its terrible scenery. Luckily flights to Denver are pretty cheap…if only I had more vacation time off work.


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