OPINION | GARY SMITH: Why I’m not a fan of walking on the wild side … now more than ever

First off, let's make one thing abundantly clear: I am not an outdoorsman.

Not knocking those who are; it's just not for me. As far as I personally am concerned, nature is what we have spent thousands of years evolving to avoid, or at least to observe from the safety and comfort of air conditioning.

It's also not nature's fault. It has certainly tried. It has offered up to me an unending series of majestic vistas, breathtaking views and the ample opportunity for me to engage and commune. That I'm just not that into it is much more my fault than nature's.

But, as with most relationships that don't work out, I feel like I've given it a fair shot. I've been a member of various troops (Boy, Cub, etc.), and have chaperoned what in my opinion is more than my share of campouts, cookouts, canoe trips and general semi-aimless wandering in the woods.

And yes, there have been some pretty impressive sights. For example, I witnessed fog snaking its way down the Buffalo River just below the bluffs first thing in the morning, which was so amazing it almost made me forget that I was getting to see it because I had slept on the ground, in a tent in the rain. And that it was still, actually, raining.

So, yes, I can certainly understand, in theory at least, why people are so taken with the Great Outdoors. But I've also reached the age where I'm at least honest enough with myself to acknowledge that I prefer nature with 18 golf holes cut through it and a clubhouse at the end. Particularly one with a bar. And, again, air conditioning. I mean, that's becoming sort of a minimum viability for me.

I mention this not to cast aspersions on outdoors ... people? Besides, best-case scenario, people who enjoy the outdoors are having too much fun to care what I think. And not-so-best-case, well, if a significant part of your daily routine is checking yourself for ticks, there's just not a whole lot I can say that's going to make you feel worse than you already do.

No, I mention this because of something I read that other day that gave me even greater pause (spoiler alert: prepare for incoming irony) about venturing into the woods.

It seems that, due to oppressively hot weather conditions in many western states generated by global warming, bears are venturing into campsites with greater frequency. See what I did with the "pause" thing there? You know, "pause," "paws ...". Ya, never mind. If you have to explain a joke, it's just not that funny.

What, apparently, campers do have to mind is increasing interactions with bears, who, denied their typical diet of berries and such by the impacts of hot weather and who started hibernating later and got up sooner because winters are shorter, are heading where the food is. Which is also, unfortunately, where the people are.

So, to recap – hungry, cranky bears and human beings, all together at the same time. What could go wrong?

Now, if this scenario doesn't concern you, then you, like me, just don't spend a lot of time in the woods. And while, as those in charge of emergency preparation like to say, the chances of getting attacked by a bear in the parking lot are slim but never zero, not going where the bears are will probably keep you out of trouble.

However, I also came across another chilling bit of news. Seems global warming is making oceans more bath-tubby these days. And as a result, sharks are compelled to venture farther north (apparently they prefer cooler water: good to know) and are showing up in more places where people are swimming earlier than they used to.

So, sharks coming in closer, bears coming out of the woods. You sort of get the feeling that nature is done with trying to kill us off with slightly more subtle stuff like snowstorms and heat waves and torrential rains and floods and is bringing in the muscle.

All of which provides even more reason for me to stay as far away from the outdoors as possible. Which is fine with me. Except I also read a warning the other day that, given the recent heavy rains and hot temperatures, people are reporting an increase in snakes coming into their garages.

Yep, bears, sharks and snakes. They are coming for us. And we literally have no one to blame but ourselves.

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