One of the best ways to avoid crowds is to go where the crowds won’t go. This is not a suggestion to frequent dark alleys and condemned restaurants but rather a prodding to allow yourself the full wilderness experience when you venture into the wild.
If the trail is paved and/or easy to follow, you haven’t gone far enough. If you know where the next public restroom is, you’ll need to hike further —beyond the water spigots, educational trail side signs and maybe even your comfort zone to where you’re thankful for your map and beef jerky —and are aware of little more than your next step on the trail.
Difficult passages tend to keep one focused in the present. It’s why grief blurs adjunct memories and why athletes rarely hear the cheers of their fans. In lives spiraling with multi-tasked peripheral events, intensity can grab a moment and cement it as an elevating foundational experience. My hike through The Subway of Zion National Park has permanent status, as does mountain-biking in Mammoth Lakes, free diving through a coral tunnel in the Caribbean, crossing Gibraltar’s airport runway on foot and getting stranded on the island of Vieques with two of my kids.
Climbing, biking, hiking, swimming… beyond the crowds is well worth the fear, effort and delays to ordinary life because extreme moments tend to be unique moments that will be yours alone.