People and the Wilderness

A recent trip into the alpine lakes wilderness not only brought me up close and personal with some beautiful alpine scenery, it also had me encountering shopping-center like crowds .Large groups of people like this are not entirely uncommon in areas along the I-90 corridor, especially the closer to the metro area you go. Counting nearly a couple hundred people on the hike to my destination had me wondering what type of stress load this had on the landscape, and also had me questioning what we will be considering wilderness in the future.

I can wholeheartedly understand the draw to nature on many levels. Experiecing nature in its essence has a grounding and therapeutic effect. Unfettered experiences of nature are a biological necessity. Getting clean air and studying the beauty we see along the trail helps balance our brain and improves health in an array of different areas. On some level we all know this, but we’re sort of a culture with amnesia; it has become accustomed to gravitate towards the electronic world rather than remember our roots in nature. And as I am reminded by my recently deceased laptop, our modernized comforts are often very fleeting in comparison to the self-renewing ecosystems of nature.  And this experience of nature is something everyone should be entitled to.

I like to view things more holistically , assuming that each person has the potential to create a ripple effect on the environment around them.  I think in its essence, a mass desire to get outdoors has to be viewed in a positive light. The more people that are embracing the outdoors as their form of recreation, the more healthy and balanced the culture is. I think the key thing to emphasize, crowded trail or vacant, solitude or groups, is respect for nature.  Respect for nature is something that is instilled when someone is drawn to nature for the experience. This relationship with nature can only help instill a sense of humility for the grandness of it. The difficulty we face is  that our culture is still very much in training wheels when it comes to relating to nature. The passive interest in nature has a tendency to bring one to the outdoors, but also with one foot in the noise of modernized culture. Our cultural leap is to encourage and educate respect for nature. There is a lot to be said about the benefits of solitude in nature, but if there are to be many on the trail, perhaps establishing a sense of wilderness community would be the ideal.

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