An Outdoor View: On adversity

While listening to the radio the other day, I heard two people talking about going to Mars. One asked, “Why would anyone want to go to Mars?” The other said, “Some people would do it just for the adversity.”

That got me to wondering. I shudder at the thought of being strapped into a relatively roomy airliner for 3 hours. Who would want to spend 5 months — that’s 3,600 hours — in a cramped space vehicle just to experience what’s almost certain to be a heaping helping of adversity?

Adversity, after all, is trouble, misfortune, pain, difficulty, catastrophe, trials and tribulations. With all the strife and grief going on in the world, who goes looking for more?

Adversity is what you’re asking for when you go halibut fishing in Cook Inlet in a 10-foot boat.

Adversity is what you get when you shoot a large bear with a small gun.

Adversity is the stuff of the old Arab curse, “May the fleas of a thousand camels infest your armpits,” or the ancient Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.” The Boy Scout Motto, “Be Prepared!” is meant to help young boys, who invariably find themselves in interesting times.

My main source of adversity as a boy was the financial kind. In my early teens, I often went fishing with only one lure, usually a red-and-white Dardevle spoon. With that “wobbler” and a couple of sinkers, I’d walk the railroad tracks to the Skagit River, a mile or so from home, and fish until I lost my lure. On one tragic trip, on my first cast, I hooked a snag and lost my wobbler. That adversity spurred me into doing small jobs for people, so I could make money for fishing tackle and other necessities of life.

Adversity is a funny thing. We don’t want it, but we need it. When life becomes boring, we do something to make it more interesting. My two brothers and I used to make our lives more interesting by teasing our dad. He’d ignore us for a while, then he’d say to no one in particular, “Somebody must be tired of living.” That dire threat, while made in jest, signaled us that we’d poked the bear long enough, and it was time to find something else to make life interesting.

Challenge is just another word for adversity. Most of us like some challenge in our lives. For example, the first thing I do every morning is to get on my computer and try to whip a bunch of feisty old ladies at an on-line game of Boggle. I’m about half as good as the best of them, so the challenge is fierce.

Whenever I’ve felt jaded about anything, feeling like I’ve “been there, done that,” I find myself making it more challenging. Some people do this by getting into fly fishing, a means of fishing that requires spending most waking hours futzing around with tiny bits and pieces, and wondering which vest pocket something is in. A few years back, I became bored with fishing for silver salmon, so I bought a float-fishing outfit — an 11-and-a-half-foot rod and a center-pin reel. This required learning a whole new way of fishing, one I haven’t yet mastered, but it certainly adds challenge to my silver fishing. In fact, the challenge is so great, I’ve decided to give the outfit to one of my grandkids.

For some years now, I’ve been at the age when I avoid adversity whenever possible. Given the choice of a sleeping bag on hard ground or a large bed in a nice hotel, I’ll go for the hotel bed every time. Adversity is for the young and innocent, which explains why you rarely see old people climbing straight-up-and-down walls of ice, or skiing off the edges of cliffs, or hiking the entire 2,166 miles of the Appalachian Trail.

Back to what motivates people to go to Mars, I figure adversity is just part of it. The main motivation comes from the idea of overcoming all obstacles, the idea that they can “boldly go where no man has gone before.” The rewards for accomplishing that feat are immeasurable.

Les Palmer can be reached at

More in Life

Minister’s Message: The power of small beginnings

Tiny accomplishments lead to mighty successes in all areas of life

A copy of “Once Upon the Kenai: Stories from the People” rests against a desk inside the Peninsula Clarion’s offices on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Off the Shelf: Hidden history

‘Once Upon the Kenai’ tells the story behind the peninsula’s landmarks and people

Artwork by Graham Dale hangs at the Kenai Art Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022. These pieces are part of the “Sites Unseen” exhibition. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Apart and together

‘Sites Unseen’ combines the work of husband and wife pair Graham Dane and Linda Infante Lyons

Homemade garlic naan is served with a meal of palak tofu, butter chicken, basmati rice and cucumber salad. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Naan for a crowd

When it comes to feeding a group, planning is key

P.F. “Frenchy” Vian poses with a cigar and some reading material, probably circa 1920, in an unspecified location. (Photo courtesy of the Viani Family Collection)
Unraveling the story of Frenchy, Part 6

The many vital chapters in the story of Frenchy fell into place

Jesus, God of miracles, provides

When you are fishing or eating them, remember how Jesus of Nazareth used fish in some of his miracles

Sugar cookies are decorated with flowers of royal icing. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Blooming sugar cookies

These sugar cookies are perfectly soft and delicious, easy to make, and the dough can be made long in advance

Minister’s Message: What God wants you to know

Do you ever have those moments when you turn toward heaven and ask God, “What do You want with me?”

Most Read