I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus from blogging for a while, partly because this year as been filled with other exciting life (see: non-trail) adventures, which means I haven’t been out exploring, camping and backpacking as much over the last few months. I started my blog as a way of helping other people find access to adventures they didn’t know existed, some even in their own backyard, and also, to foster and encourage a love and respect for the outdoors. Because.. adventure is out there, you just need to know where to look for it… right ?
In the last couple of years, there has been a lot of press online about how social media and apps like instagram (…etc) may be playing a role in harming our favorite wild places. A perspective, that up until recently, hadn’t crossed my radar. Now, I see it popping up everywhere. This hot topic does not appear to be dissolving anytime soon.
On my last trip, a campfire discussion with a friend over drinks brought about some honest conversation. I spoke candidly about what impact I may be having by sharing the places that I discover on a social platform. Whether my ability to reach people is widespread, or small spread… regardless… it’s still something I’m putting out there for people to access and I felt it was important that I take the time to reflect on what that means to me. Does that make me partly responsible for damage, wear and tear and degradation of our trails and natural spaces? Am I upsetting other people by sharing these beloved places? What do I do when I see disrespect for the places I venture? Whether it is well received or not, subconsciously, part of my hesitancy to share on my blog lately could have been more deeply rooted in my feelings towards protecting these wild places. On the other hand, I believe firmly in positive education, and cultivating a love for nature; a love which breeds respect and care for our natural spaces.
This social media phenomenon is well stated in this article by Outside Online… sharing these places on a social media platform can really be a double-edged sword.
“Social media can expose tens of thousands of people to places in an instant. That’s a double-edged sword.”
-Christopher Solomon for Outside Online, Mar 29, 2018
While social media can have a cascade of effects both positive and negative for our parks and wild places, it is hard to ignore the first hand observations of a place you once knew and loved show the effects of over popularization. Take, for example, one of my favorite local trails right here in Michigan. Several years ago, it seemed only handful of hardcore adventurers knew of this special trail. There was limited info about it online. In fact, the information I had, was word of mouth from a local boy scout leader who gave me a simple map that looked like it had been passed down through many hands. Fast forward to now; any person can find 100’s of blog posts (including my own), park resources, maps and campsite information online about this trail. Every local hiking Facebook group recommends it to newbies and veterans of backpacking alike. Five years back, I could hit this trail up during any season and see only a handful of fellow hikers all weekend. So few, I would wonder why nobody else was out there experiencing this amazing place. Where were all the people? It was clean, natural and untouched. It was perfect. Now, this trail is overrun, abused, and so popular that unless you leave work a day early on a summer weekend, you can’t find a campsite on it’s 21 miles of trail. People are making their own trails, campsites, cutting down living trees for fires, pooping directly on the trail, leaving trash and TP in the trees, leaving food and empty beer bottles in campfires pits and setting up tents on the side of the trail. It breaks my heart that my once favorite trail has become a place that is showing fast signs of degradation, disrespect and over use. On my last trip there, I carried out two bags of trash over the few short miles I hiked on. And I thought to myself, is it possible that I played a part in this? This trail was one of my first blog posts. A trail that inspired me to share with others so that people could enjoy such a magical place. It has quickly become one of my most liked and most popular posts. Over 5000 people have visited that post. 5000 people who can also have an impact, both positive and negative.
While I can understand both sides of this double-edged sword, I am fully aware that this is an argument that could be pushed in either direction, depending on which angle you want to address, and who you talk to. The truth of the matter is that my voice, no matter the range, can still have an impact. What is important is to be aware of the impact that one can have. I want to make my impact be a positive one.
After some deep thinking on this issue, and my acknowledgement of a protective love for these wild natural landscapes, I have decided that I will continue to share my adventures, because at the heart of it, that is why I started this forum and I feel an importance to continue doing this. That being said, I vow to be a role model, on and off the trail, in support of the sustainability and preservation of our parks and trails. I will continue to practice (LNT) leave no trace principles, preach LNT, and teach those who join me on my trips all about it. I urge everyone who enjoys my blog, to challenge yourself (and your friends) about your knowledge of and ability to respect sustainable backpacking principles.
Lastly, I will not support those who post or write about destructive behaviors or actions. I will also always represent LNT principles in my backpacking practice. And like many nature photographers and nature bloggers are doing, I will avoid sharing specific GPS locations or tagged locations on my social media.
My goal is to focus more on backpacking education on my blog, to promote safety and sustainability and show you all ways to enjoy, love and appreciate a good, clean, happy adventure. Because, adventure is out there, and you want it to still be there 10 years from now, just the way you left it. 🙂