The Paradox of Going Outside

How do you go into the wild without going “Into the Wild”?

  1. Before the bear came it was a grab bag of small miseries—the standard discomforts of a coastal person who basically spends his time inside. I wasn’t sure if I had gotten any sleep. My pack’s straps had abraded symmetric blisters on my collarbone. I had tweaked my back by lying on my side, and my legs by curling them up. I needed to go to the bathroom but kept deciding that it wasn’t worth the trouble. My body temperature had been oscillating wildly: I’d been getting cold, then putting on a layer or two, then sweating, then dropping into chills. And my stomach was churning—I hoped not from “beaver fever.”

    But then, panic. A pounding, spiraling, helpless panic, the kind you might feel—that I once did feel—when bracing for impact on an airplane about to make an emergency landing.

    Just outside our three-man tent I had heard the signatures of ursine curiosity: heavy footsteps, panting, and every so often a terrible silence in which the two of us, the thing and I, would freeze, and tighten...

The complete text of “The Paradox of Going Outside” is not in the Byliner library, but we love it so much we included an excerpt and a link to the full story on

Originally published in Outside, December 2012

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