Sunshine, Swimming and Summits: Why I Prioritize Outdoor Escapes in the Summer Months

Kayaking with my husband Mike on a hot July Saturday.

Let’s talk about summer weekend priorities.

One of the things I treasure most in this life is warm, sunny weather.

One of the other things is being outside in said weather, enjoying my many recreational hobbies: swimming, hiking, cycling, running, kayaking, camping and the like.

When you combine those two, that equals the summertime as the prime time of year. Here in the Pacific Northwest corner of the United States, we patiently endure eight or nine months of consistent rain, gray skies and cool weather for the glorious treasure of beautiful summer weather.

For one quarter of the year, our area is about as close to paradise as an active outdoors person can get. I’m blessed and grateful to have married a man that feels the same way about summertime. But with all the wonderful things, there is a tension and a downside. In this case, the scarcity and fleeting nature of our limited slice of paradise introduce a conflict.

The opportunity and challenge

A schedule conflict. Varied, on many fronts, and ongoing. What do I mean by that?

We’ve come to recognize how short our favorite season is, and how quickly it gets filled up with activities. Many of our choosing, but often, just as many as by the choosing of others. Therein lies the conflict.

The heart of the struggle centers around July & August Saturdays. Saturday being the pinnacle of “this is the day to do what I want,” and July-August being the time when the weather is at its finest. Yes, June and September are often lovely too, but the seventh and eighth month of the year are the prime of summer.

So boiled down, that means nine days. Nine prime days of the 365 day calendar. That’s startlingly few when you put it in perspective. Then the question becomes, what is the highest and best use of those fleeting days? That’s a question every person and family must decide for themselves.

The tension arises when we factor in that there are multiple things vying for those days. It seems everyone in the world plans things then. Weddings, baby showers, birthday parties, festivals, moving, concerts, and the list goes on.

Younger years vs. now

In previous decades of life, I was ready to fill up every single weekend with one of those outdoor activities I listed above. A weekend at home seemed like a waste. Now that I’m in my 40s, I recognize the goodness and necessity of tending to the home and finding enjoyment there, while still maximizing my outdoor time.

Since life’s responsibilities preclude us from camping *every* weekend, finding a compromise seems to be the thing.

  • If I spend the morning doing chores, then going for a bike ride, sitting in the kiddy pool, or sitting in the sun reading are just rewards
  • When one of those precious nine days needs to be devoted to something someone else puts on our schedule, finding a creative way to fit in an activity of our choosing at a different time is important

Where the rubber meets the road in summer weekend planning

As much as I’d love to be pursuing outdoor hobbies every summer weekend, I recognize that not everyone sees it that way, and that being a good friend, relative, and employee/contractor often means striking a balance. After all, being involved in the lives of others equals not always getting your way.

That being said, here is how we think through what gets on the calendar:

  • Landmark birthdays for relatives or close friends – we’ll be there
  • Funerals for the same – of course
  • Family reunions, count on us with bells and whistles!
  • Hiking, camping or watersport activities – the highest of priorities
  • An event for an employer or client where our attendance is expected – on it
  • Helping close friends/family with a move or other emergency – you got it
  • Weddings/baby showers – if you are in our inner circle, we’ll consider it
  • Non-essential indoor meetings during the day – of the 15 other things we could be doing with the day, it’s probably not making the cut

The crux of the matter is timing. The prime morning and afternoon hours on summer Saturdays are what is gold. If you have an event during that time, but it could just as easily have been scheduled for the evening or a weekday, that’s where it gets tricky to accommodate. Simply because of the scarcity of those days and the stiff competition for how to use them.

Another factor (taking the literal high road)

Here in the Pacific Northwest, some of the most beautiful places are on remote, high elevation mountain logging roads that are snowed in or closed until the prime summer months. Summer doesn’t feel complete without one or two trips up to some of our favorite mountain lakes and hikes that are inaccessible most of the year. When you factor in mosquito season (often in July), that takes even more calendar space away from the best times to visit those.

With all the other important things that get placed on our calendar, these trips can get squeezed out if we aren’t careful. They even pit themselves against others of our favorite things, like hiking/swimming at lower elevation locations that are available for longer periods of time.

Working it all out in real time

The challenge (ahem, opportunity) is striking a balance. The extremes would be refusing to attend anything that isn’t what we want to do, and alternatively, allowing random events to fill up our schedule without carving out time for the things we love on those nine precious days/weekends.

If I’m being strategic, I plot out our summer calendar sometime in the spring, plugging in dates for camping, visiting relatives, blocking out some for those mountain lake adventures, etc., then those “we should be there” things. Ideally, we can do enough of all of them to feel like we’d maximized outdoor opportunities while still being present for other important things.

But the reality of the scarceness of those summer days is often you have to make choices. When you choose something that is a priority to you over something someone else wants you to do, there can be conflict. It’s inevitable.

Application and conclusion

I’ve written this post to take the conversation that Mike and I often have about summer scheduling, and share it with the world. If nothing else, just so the tens of people that read this blog understand our thought process.

I also wonder who else out there has the dilemma I’ve shared here. If you happen to, I’d love to hear from you about how you deal with it!

What I’ve learned over the years is that identifying my priorities is the first step. Knowing what I consider the highest and best use of the fleeting summer days makes deciding how to use them easier. I’ve learned that sometimes respecting my own priorities means disappointing others, since I can’t be in 2-3 places at once.

To keep myself sane, I have to be ok with disappointing others from time to time. If I don’t, I’ll end up disappointing myself. Neither are ideal, but that is where the balance comes in. I spent a lot of summers dutifully cramming my schedule full with things that others put on my calendar, so being more proactive has been tremendously helpful.

Your thoughts on the topic of time priorities and summer weekends would be most welcome in a comment. Thank you for reading!

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One response to “Sunshine, Swimming and Summits: Why I Prioritize Outdoor Escapes in the Summer Months”

  1. […] so frustrating to me for many years. Part of it is the last stages of the grieving process that summer is gone. Yes, it takes some time for me to get over […]

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