Thanks for sharing that Bob.
It is part of a subject I have kicked around for years: as population has increased, along with suburban sprawl and development of "recreation property," logging and other tapping of natural resources, we have come to find ourselves with no frontiers or truly wild wilderness regions. Yet we still have that assumption that there are infinite resources at hand. We made the transition from islands of civilization in seas of wilderness to the opposite over a hundred years ago, but I think we have that old assumption in mind when thinking about the natural world.
In the continental US, with the demands on wild areas, I think we are close to the European hiking conventions with small islands of untouched lands with huts and a different mindset about foot travel.
When I learned about the camping regulations on the AT I was surprised, but I'm used to the western lands. The tightly regulated permit systems for areas in Washington like Mt. Rainier NP and the Enchantments will become more the norm throughout the continental wild areas as the population increases. That is not to say that the permit systems are wrong, indeed they are the only way to save these areas from overuse, but it will impact the way we think about wilderness recreation.
To give my personal experience, when I was born in 1954, the population of Washington state was about 2.5 million and is now 6.8 million and growing. Not only did those people need a place to live, they needed a place to play, and they aren't all hikers: there are hunters, ATV riders, equestrians, snowmobilers, and 4WD folk all vying for the same resources, along with logging and mineral resource industries and energy producers (read dams). Add a good dose of some annoying air traffic.
If you look at a map of Washington, you will see the Cascades sliced up like a sheet cake with highways and rail lines, and the edges laced with expanding suburban towns. The Olympics are on a peninsula and a natural wilderness "island" with similar lacework on the edges. We would like to think of the Cascades as a continuous expanse of wilderness, but the reality is a patchwork of multi-use National Forests peppered with designated wilderness areas and National Parks.
It is a tricky mindset. You can stand In a skyscraper in downtown Seattle and look straight into the Olympics and Cascades with bookends of stratovolcanoes and watch eagles and falcons soaring between the towers. It is what I call the Wilderness Tease. The flip side of that is you will climb one of those mountains through cool quiet forests to be confronted with a view of the towers and suburbs with a brown ring of polluted air. There are wild areas, but little true remoteness and certainly no frontiers.