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"Its absolute indifference steadied me."
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Billy Ray
(rosyfinch) - M

Locale: the mountains
"Its absolute indifference steadied me." on 11/09/2013 10:06:59 MST Print View

This article hits a nice note for me.

Bill D

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: "Its absolute indifference steadied me." on 11/09/2013 11:44:17 MST Print View

Nice article Bill, thanks.

I'm out the door to get a dose of indifference right now.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Re: "Its absolute indifference steadied me." on 11/09/2013 12:37:38 MST Print View

I'm 25 days away from some Aleutian Island indifference myself. But who's counting?

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: "Its absolute indifference steadied me." on 11/09/2013 13:18:25 MST Print View

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.

Tipi Walter
(TipiWalter) - F
Wild Lands on 11/10/2013 13:59:51 MST Print View

Thanks for the article link.

I live in the Southeastern US where there is no "remoteness" and yet I have spent weeks out at a time in solitude. There are vast National Forests in NC and VA and TN where you are guaranteed solitude, even on established trails. And if you want to bushwack, well, you will be all alone in wild country.

Beyond this, here's a tip for those seeking seclusion: Pick the wildest winter blizzard and get your gear squared and pack about 10 days worth of food and hit the woods. Nobody in the East goes backpacking during a January blizzard at -10F. It's all yours.

My biggest peeve is the nonstop jet traffic overhead which pollutes the air with noise. Is it just as bad in the West? I foresee a day in the near future when all Americans will have individual flying cars and no place will be wild.

Valerie E
(Wildtowner) - M

Locale: Grand Canyon State
Jet Noise on 11/10/2013 14:45:15 MST Print View

Unfortunately, many of the most remote areas of Grand Canyon are right below heavily-used flight paths! One of my backpacking buddies is an airplane aficionado, though, so for her, it's an advantage (not so much for me...).

Tipi Walter
(TipiWalter) - F
Remote on 11/10/2013 20:42:44 MST Print View

Valerie---I also hear the Grand Canyon has/or used to have around 55,000 tourist helicopter flights a year. Some efforts may have been made to curtail this madness.

Rex Sanders
(Rex) - M

Locale: Central California Coast
Grand Canyon aircraft noise & more on 11/10/2013 22:56:32 MST Print View

A while back (late 1990s?) NPS tackled the noise problems created by increasing aircraft traffic over the Grand Canyon. After several years of intense negotiations (and maybe lawsuits), they compromised by creating flight corridors over the Grand Canyon, and putting caps on some flights.

Bottom line: Some areas got quieter, some got noisier, but you could find some peace and quiet in parts of the Grand Canyon.

They also forced commercial raft companies with outboard motors to switch to much quieter 4-stroke engines. Before that, you could hear those boats coming from a long ways.

Slightly related story: Friends were rafting the Colorado River through Grand Canyon in September 2001. Several days before they reached takeout, they noticed the absence of air traffic. Without news from the outside world, they learned about the attacks of 9/11 and nationwide aircraft grounding when they arrived at takeout.

Other parts of the West can be plagued with aircraft noise, depending on where you are in the flight patterns. The Santa Cruz mountains, Point Reyes National Seashore, and Henry Coe State Park (all near San Francisco), can be very noisy in the evenings before 11:30 pm, due to the roar of aircraft approaching SFO/OAK/SJC.

OTOH, some places off the main air traffic lanes, like Dinosaur National Monument in UT/CO, are extraordinarily quiet, and dark.

For good visualizations of US air traffic patterns, try Aaron Koblin.

All of that could change, mostly for the worse, if the FAA and the airline industry succeed in implementing Free Flight, where airliners could fly nearly anywhere they want from point A to B. Free Flight has been on a very slow development path for a long time.

-- Rex

Edited by Rex on 11/10/2013 23:01:31 MST.

Tipi Walter
(TipiWalter) - F
Remote on 11/11/2013 06:15:43 MST Print View

Thanks Rex for the Canyon update. If I had Koblin's data with me in hand, I'd probably never go out backpacking. The maps look like giant spider webs of American CRAP!

And aren't we scheduled to have 30,000 new drones flying over the country soon? What about those individual small drones people can buy and put GoPro cameras on and fly thru wild country to make videos? Some idiots I think flew one into the Arches National Park just to get "good footage". I'm sure these drones sound like weed eaters screaming overhead. Silence is golden but I must be the only person knowing this and who cares.

Bob Shaver
(rshaver) - F

Locale: West
population pressure on 11/11/2013 10:18:29 MST Print View

When I lived in Wenatchee WA, the Enchantments (mentioned above for permits) were my backyard and weekend backpack destination. One time I camped at the highest water near Asgard Pass, and counted 120 people tromping through my campsite. Some of them were groups of 10-20 people That was in the early 70s. The permits are a hassle, but the Enchantments would be trampled out without them.

On the other hand, there are no crowds in Idaho. You can have an alpine lake with a 6 mile hike in all to yourself on Labor Day. On a 9 day hike, you can hike all day and not see another hiker, and have nobody at ANY of the lakes you camp at every night. You can hike in to the best wilderness hot spring in Idaho, and have it to yourself for the weekend. No permits are needed any place in the state, except the kind you fill out on the trail as you hike in.

Edited by rshaver on 11/11/2013 10:21:11 MST.

Don Morris
(hikermor) - F
Absolute Indifference on 11/11/2013 18:34:52 MST Print View

Fine article and commentary. I just returned from a five day (wish it had been more) trip to just such a place - Channel Islands National vying with Theodore Roosevelt and Isle Royale for that distinction. The thing about CHIS is that, unlike many seldom visited areas, it is roughly 30 miles from the huddled masses of southern California.

We were doing Science - prospecting for pygmy mammoth fossils - so of course we didn't have any fun at all. I am sure members of this forum understand perfectly.

Visitation is increasing, but it will never be Yosemite Valley, at least in the foreseeable future.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: population pressure on 11/11/2013 19:09:18 MST Print View

A few years I was assigned a client in Boise. I was dreading the trip. Once there and spending some hiking, I fell in love with Idaho. Boise itself is pretty cool, especially the outdoor theatre in summer. Made many trips there and enjoyed everyone.

Better keep it a secret, Bob.

P.S. I still haven't figured out the football infatuation of the locals :)

Nico .
(NickB) - MLife

Locale: Los Padres National Forest
"Its absolute indifference steadied me" on 11/11/2013 21:07:29 MST Print View

Enjoyed this article... thanks for sharing. I too appreciate seeking out less traveled places.

@ Don Morris... Interestingly, I just visited CHIS again too. In fact, we may have been on the same boat to SRI. I think I saw a box or bag with your name on it when we were unloading, but thought the chances of running into a fellow BPLer were too remote.

Don Morris
(hikermor) - F
SRI encounter on 11/12/2013 20:34:02 MST Print View

What are the odds? I came in on Saturday, November 9 and indeed there were some boxes and bags with my name. One of the greatest things about Santa Rosa Island is its isolation and fabulous solitude.

Edited by hikermor on 11/12/2013 20:35:08 MST.

dave p
(hipass) - F

Locale: Los Angeles
never further than 14miles from a road in the lower 48 on 11/13/2013 03:15:07 MST Print View

you are never further than 14miles from a road in the lower 48.This is a stat i read about years back.I dont know its veracity but if true its scary in how we have cornered mother nature.
I notice a lot of vapor trails in the sierra and death valley.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: never further than 14miles from a road in the lower 48 on 11/13/2013 11:33:56 MST Print View

I read a similar stat somewhere. There are some areas with more like 20 miles, but few and far between.

Check out this PDF addressing that question graphically: