Monday, August 19, 2019

The good old days

"It breaks my heart," C says. He surveys the sea of tourists in the restaurant. "And I'm really angry," he added. "I miss the old days."

The old days he is talking about weren't that long ago. I've lived here long enough to know some of them, but not the way he does. "I grew up here," he reminds me. He remembers how it used to be.

This is something we are all struggling with, those of us with a little bit of stake in this place. It is changing rapidly. Last weekend as three of us hiked across the mountain range, something we had wanted to do for a long time, we encountered three women doing the "Backpacker Magazine loop."  Really? Later,as we descended from Horton Pass to the other side, we descended into crazytown. Tents perched five feet from the lake. Many occupied campsites. People with horses. People with dogs. Still less people than in most backcountry places, but still. Too many people for us.

Night number one, though, was at a lake only occupied by one other group, slightly smoky from a lightning fire. My friends slept in, as they do, but we left camp before ten, always a win. We climbed up over the pass to the lake I mentioned before. On the pass, it was peaceful, but at this lake, not so much.

We had meant to stay here but we looked at each other with the same thought in mind. "I can't deal with Mirror," A said, and we headed to a less popular lake, which we had to ourselves. There are still pockets of solitude here, which makes me hopeful.

The next day we headed down the most popular day hiking trail there is here. When I say most popular, I am not talking 100 people or even 50 (I know, I am spoiled) but maybe 25 people, which to me is way too many. We braced ourselves, but the trail was strangely empty. And I know I can't move to a place and bar the door against others. By coming here from somewhere else, I am part of the problem. Not to mention, we all live on stolen Nez Perce land.

But still. The wilderness endures. We completed a traverse of the mountains, south to north, that we had wanted to do for years--thirty miles, three people, two dogs. These are the good old days.








11 comments:

  1. Getting people into the outdoors has been good and yet there's this increasing problem. Here in Texas, the land of crappy public lands to private lands ratio, the most popular state parks in the Hill Country fill up months in advance---and forget the ones with a cool river in the summer--wait times to get into the park.

    that said, if you just head east, our national forests here are usually deserted.

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    1. Because it's hot or less people I imagine?

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  2. If you don't like crowds, don't hike anywhere in the Columbia River Gorge...or Mt Hood for that matter. The "crowds" where you live are nothing compared to these places. I try to tell myself at least people are getting out and enjoying nature and not sitting at home on their butts.

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    1. I've heard that about the Gorge. I try to tell myself that too, but I hate seeing bad behaviors

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  3. I don't think we have more people on our trails but it is certainly taking us a lot longer to drive to them because of rapid suburban developement without the necessary road infrastructure.
    I would love to be able to share your amazing trails.

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    1. I am reminding myself that at least we aren't seeing big development and there's still lots of clean water and air. So a few more people but not necessarily the end of the world.

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  4. I'm glad I started hiking when I did and even though only 10 years ago I can hardly believe the explosion in my backyard. I too prefer silence and views absent of people and tents. As one ranger recently told me the WOW places and solitude are becoming mutually exclusive.

    We need people to love and appreciate public lands so they'll be voters and supporters but . . .

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    1. It gets so deserted here in winter, that at least helps. I was surprised at how angry my friend was, but I didn't grow up here so I can't really imagine what it feels like.

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  5. I'm actually glad I dropped into the Colorado outdoors scene late in the game, and transitioned here from California. As you observed, crowds are all a matter of perspective. The worst thing about the Front Range is parking; it doesn't really take all that long to get away from people on many trails. Just move fast and stick to the hard stuff.

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  6. Contact with nature and the peace of forests are experiences that everyone should have

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  7. I feel you. People are crawling everywhere these days! My hometown is still relatively untouched and no I'm not gonna say where it is, though I think you know (shhhh!). It's a very expensive and difficult place to live which is its saving grace I suppose. It's such a shit show everywhere else, it seems, now. What I notice about the "new outdoors" as I think of it (the competitive, event-driven, joiner outdoors) is that "more people are better" seems to be the driving factor. To me the outdoors was always about solitude and quiet. But now it's an "industry." Sigh. Get off my lawn, go away cloud, yadda yadda.

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