Bikepacking With Banjo (Video)
Just as lockdown let up near their home in Kongsberg, Norway, Mikkel Soya Bølstad and his family set out on an overnight bikepacking trip with Banjo, a wise little Jack Russell terrier. Find a reflection and some advice from Banjo here, alongside a video and photoset from the ride…
Words and photos by Mikkel Soya Bølstad (@backwoodsbikepacking)
Finally, we’re back on our freedom machines again, my wife, our youngest daughter, our Jack Russell terrier Banjo, and me, bikepacking from home to one of our favourite little camp spots, just shy of 30 kilometres away.
It always hits me how packing your bike for a trip and heading for the outdoors from home transforms the way we see our neighbourhood. Even the most boring stretches of tarmac suddenly become part of a small adventure.
After about 15 kilometres of riding, we’re finally ready to steer our wheels onto gravel. I’ll be honest with you: it really is a bit of a paradox, me being a biologist and author, writing about how modern forestry is ruining Norway’s old-growth forests and threatening to eradicate hundreds of species in the process, and yet, here we are, riding the very forestry roads that are the front-runners of the destruction.
To my defence, it probably used to be a bumpy old farm road where we are riding, or at least a trail, so this would probably have been the most sensible path to take to get to our campsite anyway. I sure see the paradox nonetheless. Still, even forests heavily influenced by modern forestry, with its clear cuts and monocultures, are a welcome change from town.
We get to our destination after climbing 500 meters from the bottom of our valley, where the forestry road ends and the remnants of old-growth forest meet the eye in the distance.
The poor old beaver couple where the road ends has had their dams broken. Where there once was a beaver dam, the creek now runs freely, soothing our ears with the gentle sound of running water and providing us with a dry patch of riverbank to set camp on. Banjo was quick to embrace his new surroundings, just like the rest of us.
There is no reason to glorify the side effects of the pandemic raging through our societies. Still, there’s no doubt it also has had a positive impact on us here in Norway. We’re heading outdoors like almost never before, even if it’s just for a day, or trips like this, a short overnighter.
Hammock sales have exploded, and the forests close to towns and cities have been filled to the brim with groups of families and friends gathering around campfires and sleeping under the stars. People are even moving out of the big cities and heading for rural areas and smaller towns.
Maybe biophilia has something to do with it? I know, biophilia sounds like a tree-hugger being a bit too intimate with the trees, but it’s not quite what it’s all about.
According to famous biologist Edward O. Wilson, who launched the biophilia hypothesis back in 1984, we humans have a tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life. Our mind was developed in close relation to the lifeforms that surrounded us way back when we were skin-clad stone age men and women.
Today, we’re dressed in synthetic outdoor garments with sophisticated membranes, shop our food in supermarkets, and have a hard time understanding how dependent we really are on the web of life we in reality are interconnected with.
Nonetheless, our brain is, give or take, working the same way as it did thousands of years ago, and so our joy of nature remains. And when the pandemic hit us, that very joy brought us out of our apartments and houses and into the outdoors to brighten the dark days living with the looming threat of the virus.
The question is, what we will do when the pandemic one day releases its grip on us? Will we continue to head for the outdoors? And, more importantly, will our joy of nature influence the way we treat it and the way we live our lives?
Some of the largest studies on happiness show that happiness is not about material goods. It’s about a hand to hold and a friend to talk to. Relationships are the foundation for happiness. If the pandemic could help us realise this, there could at least something good come out of the pandemic, slowing down the consumerism that’s undermining our future existence.
According to Banjo, being in the moment is also an essential part of a happy life. Sometimes, when we’re out walking, he stops in his tracks, sits down, sniffs the air, and seems to soak in his surroundings in the forest. When I attempt to move on, he looks at me like he’s saying, “Hey, mate, what’s the rush? Enjoy the moment.”
I’m teaching Banjo new tricks regularly. Now he’s teaching me back. I hear you, buddy.
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