Adventure traveler

Polly Keith Scotland (Photo by Lee Scotland)

“It’s an acquired taste,” is the way Polly Keith Scotland describes her adventure travels. 

“I never dreamed I would do this. It has evolved over 38 years. Each trip got a bit more daring, a little more adventuresome, a little more remote.” 

The adventures started when Scotland and her husband, Lee Scotland, lived in Anchorage, Alaska. There was only one road out, so they learned to fly an airplane so they could spend weekends in the bush-fly-fishing, rafting and hunting. 

The Scotlands have taken hundreds of trips, including hiking in Honduras and in Utah’s Grand Gulch Wilderness. They biked over 450 miles of Colorado mountains in one week and kayaked on Lake Superior.

“There is something interesting about taking a new adventure. Anything new that requires planning, scheduling, mapping and strategy gets the neurochemicals in your body cooking. Pretty soon you are in a state of bliss when you are doing something new,” Scotland said. “The adventure of it is just incredible. It can be the rewarding scenery or [the fact that] we survived 100 degrees or we didn’t go over the waterfall.” 

The couple still takes at least two hikes, one major kayak trip and an occasional canoeing or biking trip each year. They sailed quite a bit when their children were younger, but as their family grew up, they found it too sedentary. 

With civilization encroaching on our wilderness areas, Scotland suggests going somewhere remote with unpredictable weather-somewhere where GPS and cellphones may not work-and taking more than a week to do it. “It’s amazing how you can unwind and be mentally, physically and spiritually recharged.” 

Being in good physical shape helps: Scotland does something physical every day, whether it is walking, biking, stretching, swimming or yoga. People age twice as fast if they’re not active, she said. 

Scotland has learned to embrace the surprises in life. “The unexpected happens [and] you just have to let it happen,” she said. 

“You have no idea if the weather will be good or if your map will be mismarked.” 

Apparently, her sense of adventure is contagious. The week Scotland spoke with the Women’s Press, eight women from her hometown-inspired by Scotland’s adventures-went off to bike California’s Catalina Island to celebrate the 40th birthday of one of them. 

Later that week, Scotland headed to her son’s wedding in Colorado, where they carried flowers and dresses 3 miles up a mountain on skis and snowshoes in a blizzard to the ceremony site at 11,200 feet. 

Polly Keith Scotland is the author of “By Foot, Pedal, or Paddle,” a collection of 26 vignettes about her wilderness adventures around the world. She lives in Bemidji, Minn. 

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