In writing this post, I hope to start a thought provoking discussion for a problem that has no clear answer, but please bear with me. With the emergence of social media advertising the locations of previously pristine natural wonders, there has been a corresponding and exponential increase in traffic in wilderness areas. This increase in traffic has brought with it some unintended consequences. My question is this: Should we keep some of these hidden treasures to ourselves, or should we share for all to experience?
I’m at a quandary personally. Recently, I’ve had many hiking colleagues advise me that I keep the places I hike to myself, and share only pictures, or at most, only divulge the general locations of these areas. On one hand, I want to share my experiences with others, so that they may too enjoy the wonders of nature. Afterall, it is not my land, but our land. I believe that by sharing our special places, we ensure more people will enjoy the backcountry and fight to conserve it.
In a perfect world, this would seem the right choice. But alas, we do not live in a perfect world. Some worship nature, and do their part to conserve it by leaving no trace and also defend it against those who try to destroy it. Unfortunately, there are those people who do not respect nature, and leave their marks on the environment through not heeding to LNT principles. Trash, human waste, and destruction of nature are the aftermath of their visits into the wilderness. Just the sheer volume of noise that can come from a single, large group can cause despair for people like me, who cherish the silence of the forest, and desire to hear the natural sounds that come from being in nature. This is also the impact of wildlife and the land itself that we need to consider. While the negatives are many, there are also many positives.
More people are getting outdoors. They are becoming physically and mentally healthier, which leads to less of a burden on our medical system. More will fight to keep our wilderness areas safe from exploitation. More will reuse, recycle, and reduce waste. More will research future technologies for a cleaner environment. More will consider the future impact of what we do today. But some won’t, and those are the ones I worry about. Those are the ones that I want to shield my secret, less traveled spots from. It’s not about the ones who appreciate nature. It’s about the ones who don’t.
There are a couple of personal experiences that have driven my desire to discuss this openly. One is my annual hike to San Bernardino Peak. Before it became a popular destination with various online hiking groups, I used to see only a handful of people on the trail. This was a place where I could go to immerse myself in the wonders of the world without a boom-box blaring, without a group of 30 people taking over the trail, without trash littering the camp. It was unspoiled, but sadly this is no longer the case.
Another example I have is on the John Muir Trail. The amount of feces and toilet paper on the trail is astounding. People don’t spend the time to pack their paper out or dig a hole deep enough that their TP and excrement won’t be uncovered. Near Muir Pass, we camped under the safety of a huge rock during a torrential downpour and thunderstorm. My hiking buddy stepped in human waste, and we later discovered several more disgusting treasures throughout the area where we had sought refuge. It was very disheartening, and extremely unsanitary for all of us.
In my opinion, there is no reason for this wanton disregard and disrespect of nature. Why is this happening? Is it due to nature becoming so accessible to many? Is it the lack of education regarding proper etiquette when people visit these wonderful and magical places?
I’m all for sharing the locations I love, but I’m also adamant in ensuring that they stay pristine and beautiful. Respecting and taking care of nature is so important. Each of us doing our part to preserve and conserve is paramount. Spreading the word of leaving the land like we found it, reducing the amount of people in a group, doing our part in protecting our environment is the answer. Will you do your part? Are we doing nature a disservice by inviting more to join us, or are we helping our generation and future generations by getting more involved in the outdoors? Are we able to continue sharing those places we hold dear, or should we just post pictures and give the locations to a discreet few? What do you do with your special places that you consider to be your paradise…The Untold Secret: To share or not to share?
Happy Trails! ~SoloYolo
7 thoughts on “The Untold Secret – To Share or Not to Share?”
Such a good question. I’ve been backpacking with two friends for almost 40 years. I’ve seen the up tick in number of people in the wilderness. People will be people. The more there are the more problems there will be. I find I post and say where I’m at far less, to the point that I’ve had inquiries “is everything all right “ haven’t seen you post in awhile. The flood gates are now open. Education, and calling out these people when I’m on the trail, I hope, has had a positive effect, but I’m only one. I get out almost weekly, interact with fellow hikers , and do leave a parting, safe travels and LNT. Sometimes it’s lead to a nice conversation other times I get that look young people give to their parents. We, need to be the parents.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I wholeheartedly agree. Often times, people don’t know the “rules” or proper etiquette of the trail. Respectfully educating them is important. In my opinion, it does make a difference. After reading many responses to this issue, “It’s better to show, than to tell” seems the general consensus. I will share the more pristine and secret spots less, especially in the large hiking groups. I’ve decided to keep them to my personal pages and blog posts, unless specifically asked, and responding via pm. There is something to be said about self exploration, and not just following a guide book or someone else’s recommendation. This makes you appreciate the area even more and makes it all that much more sweet. Thank you for your experience and your thoughtful comments! Happy Trails!
What a terrific question and I look forward to reading other responses.
I have a few thoughts. In particular, one comes immediately to mind. Personal discovery and exploration. If we expose the whereabouts of these special places that touch our souls for their beauty, solitude and unspoiled nature we remove the discovery component for others who would find them as you did. I say, let others happen upon these places by sauntering a curious path.
A final thought, 7.5 billion people can respectfully love a place to death. Far fewer people can do so without love or respect.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Excellent insight. Thank you! There is something beautiful to be said about “personal discovery and exploration”. It’s so much more of a treasure and thus, more valued when you do come upon a place or a chosen path yourself… ❤
The wilderness can only handle a certain about of people and still keep its wild character. Unfortunately, if an area is over-used then entry quotas are probably the answer. The permits can be free.
I visit a lot of obscure places. I don’t give out directions but plenty of people still find them.
Well, having thought the question through Yolanda, I have been rightfully swayed. Before, I was inclined towards letting everyone know where I’d been, and then be willing to provide a detailed account of how I’d gotten there.
As you posited Yolanda, the large majority of the hiking/backpacking community, do have an everyday sincere interest in keeping these places, pristine and beautiful. But I am unsure how we as seeker/guardians, can.expect all users of these resources to share our ethos of respect and preservation. So I’m offering an “unconventional” view after all. It is this…
Stand up, and just say no. An emphatic no. Pledge to yourself that publicly divulging the nature and whereabouts of these wonderous gifts, will no longer be a part of your life. This is the mature “aha” moment, where you can say, ”I did it. I did my part today, to show my love and respect for these secret and sacred places.”
I gave this argument to someone recently, for a different reason. But it is very appropriate for the conversation.
“When you say no, you are saying yes to the preservation of these sacred places”.
So there you have it. Itz time for some benign selfishness. Itz time for 3 dimensional thinking, and a level of maturity that you can feel in your soul.
Exhibiting wonderful and rarely seen passion, you ask us the million pound question…”Will you do your part?”
I think I’m locked in Yolanda.
I miss your face.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you for your thoughtful response. Similar to your beliefs, I have changed my opinion of this topic as well. I will continue to share my posts of current popular locations, but will keep secret those places that are still pristine, and off the beaten path from the mainstream hiking groups, and leave them to my own hiking page. I would be happy to take a buddy to my sacred places, but they will be sworn to secrecy, unless they too guide a trip to that hidden location. =)