I've become wary of posting trip locations, trailhead names, and logistics on the web.
There are just too many people. And all of them have search buttons. Why attract more with pretty pictures and inspiring reports?
Sure, I'm one of those people, but hear me out.
Perhaps my thinking is a byproduct of surfing rubbing off on me, a culture in which it's considered pretty bad form- if not outright dangerous in some circles- to broadcast the locations of good waves, especially if they're not well known. A culture in which there are circles, inner circles, and inner-inner circles, all privy to different amounts of information. A culture in which keeping your mouth shut about conditions and locations is pretty standard. Many a fight occurs over this.
Last year around this time I was taken to a somewhat unknown spot by a friend, a spot that can't be seen from the road, a spot that is fairly committed in that you're in your wetsuit and hiking at least a mile before you can see if it's even working. Wetsuits are put on inside the car, boards are kept inside, out of site. Chancing a motorist seeing surfers running across the road and down the path to this spot can't happen. It turns out the wave was working really well, and I was immediately sworn to secrecy, for the third or fourth time that morning. My friend told me about the guy that showed him the spot, about how I'm the only one he's ever taken here.
A few minutes later, we see someone coming up the beach, paddling out through the rocks. "Shit, that's him!" my friend says. "If he paddles over to us, I'm going to tell him I don't know you, that you were already out here." I'm amused by the secrecy, willing to play along. But I realize my car was the only one parked in the turnout. The guy paddling out won't buy our story.
He paddles over. Polite smiles and hellos are exchanged. But there's a palpable tension in the air. Apparently they both surfed Fiji together a year ago, running into each other there by chance. My friend explains that I was sworn to secrecy, that I can be trusted. I'm met only only with a nod and a stare. We surfed, we all talked, we went our separate ways. Despite it all, that was likely the last time my friend would be trusted with guarding a spot.
I have a few backpacking secrets, places that will likely remain so. Places that don't get trip reports or pictures that are shared. These spots might only be special to me, but I've never heard anyone talk about them, never seen evidence of others finding them, and feel it should remain so.
Of course, I also travel plenty of places that are well known. And then there are places that are sort of in between. But regardless of the popularity status of an area, I've begun questioning the wisdom of posting trail names and specific logistics on the internet. I likely won't publish them anymore, only mentioning general locations.
A wakeup call for me happened on my blog. A trip report I posted was linked by a bushcraft site. And then linked by more bushcraft sites. And then it was linked by a bunch of gun sites. And suddenly I find myself reading forum posts by scores and scores of people talking about how they should go there. Now the teacher in me wants to inspire others, to advocate...but...
...it's already too crowded out there. And the internet makes it even easier to find places and spread the word.
My thinking follows a few lines. First off, I simply like imagining that I'm the first person to find an area. I've generally stopped the personal practice of looking at anything except topos for a prospective trip. It helps keep a sense of adventure alive. In climbing terms, it's the difference between an onsight flash and a redpoint. I figure that by withholding specifics, I'm doing other prospective hikers the favor, whether they realize it or not.
In this crowded world, is it necessary to put up beautiful pictures and excite the general public to go somewhere? Sunset magazine is guilty of this all the time. Headline: "California's Ten Best Little Known Beach Campgrounds", complete with maps and directions. I cringe when I see these articles. Not so little known anymore, now I need reservations 6 months out. I've personally seen this happen to areas.
Is it selfish to not volunteer information? Does it make any difference? One could argue that certain places are well known enough. But should we publicize them anymore?
I have no issue sharing information with people privately. Would I be wrong in asking people to not pass the same information on to the general public? Is it even my business or even within my control?
I presume many will question whether or not I'm a pretentious, arrogant, and selfish A$$hole for even believing I could influence anybody or go places that others would like to follow. For not wanting to share my supposed secrets.
Am I alone?
I think back to my favorite surfing bumper sticker: SURFING SUCKS. DON'T TRY IT.
Is it time backpacking has one?