Saturday, June 9, 2012

Tourist Season

Because of the nature of my work, I've always lived in places that people want to visit. I've lived in sequoia groves, on the restless Gulf of Alaska, and next to a river of grass. Now I live a stone's throw from the mountains and tourist season is upon us.

There was one brief interlude where I lived in a town that bitterly hated tourists. Every business, even the gas stations, closed up shop tight by 4 pm on Sunday. Tourists sped through the decaying downtown as fast as was legally allowed, no doubt thanking their lucky stars that they didn't live there. Even though an outrageously beautiful mountain, with rivers winding through aspen-filled canyons, was only an hour's drive away, the town refused to capitalize on it. When the gas station was open, it was filled with out of work, bitter loggers, whose main conversation was how the Forest Service, the ESA and every other government agency had let them down. They said this in the same breath that they also said that the government ought to bail them out when it flooded or when fires swept across the sagebrush.

I found this on However, it is appropriate for some places I have lived.

Having experienced both, I'll take the tourists. Yes, they back out without looking and amble across the road as if they have all the time in the world. We need reservations at the restaurants in summer. They say things like, "what a cute little town" as if the place exists in some kind of bubble, a zoo perhaps. They don't use turn signals. But I know they are what keeps this town from sinking.

This weekend town was clogged with a slow tide of tourists. They ebbed and flowed, in and out of shops, in the crosswalks, up and down the street. You can't ride your bike on the shoulder-less scenic road around the lake anymore, an RV would take you out. You take the back roads instead.

With all these people in town, probably twice again the size of our winter population, you would think some of them would be on the trails. You would be wrong. The trails were misty and lonesome.

I did a slow trail run here:

And a long hike here, until the snow stopped me.

I didn't see a soul either place. There's something very strange and sort of sad about that. While I have lost faith in people because of my years as a wilderness ranger, picking up various disgusting and unsanitary objects that they decided to leave behind, I still think we would all be better, nicer, kinder for an afternoon stroll in the woods.


  1. Thoughtful and interesting take. I liked the descriptions of the places you've lived.."restless gulf".."river of grass"..dynamic and vivid.

  2. Summer is tourist season here too (Glacier National Park) but the trails get awfully busy too.

  3. I live in the #1 tourist destination in Colorado - you should see it here in the summer... Like your town, though, we depend on that tourism, so can't complain.

    It is sad that the tourists never get out and explore all the beautiful scenery on foot, never experience all the amazing trails we have. The only walking most of the tourists seem to do is along "gift shop row", down the historic district. And I hate to say it, but I don't have to see much more than their waistline to know if they're a tourist or not. Besides being kinder, I think we'd all be a whole lot (physically) healthier if we all took more strolls in the woods.

  4. I've always lived in places like this too. Just half a mile in from any trail head and it is completely deserted. I did a lot of trail running in one particular park last summer and saw I think a total of three people that entire time. Sad.

  5. Does Joseph or the FS provide tourists with info on the trails, and maps if they need it?

    1. Yes, they do, and to be fair in august it does get busy in the wilderness. However, I am seeing a lot of unhealthy folks lately and it worries me.


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