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