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Thread: Are we ruining the earth or ruining the experience?

  1. #1
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    Are we ruining the earth or ruining the experience?

    I asked a question buried deep in the “summit registers” thread (post #121) so I’ll ask it again in its own box.

    Is the question really: Are we ruining the earth or ruining the experience?

    Which is worse for the earth – a trail to replace multiple herd paths, trees cut to create a view or a list that is circulated?

    In one hiking area some tree tops have been cut to open up the view (and what an awesome view at that). The experience is enhanced and yet the crowds are not there because it isn’t on the list. Would it be better for the earth to not cut the tree tops? I see no harm done.

    In another hiking area the view is there already (there are no trees), the herd paths to the summit have made the hike hideous and the crowds are there but it’s not on the list either. Making a well defined trail and brushing in the maze of herd paths is giving people one trail now instead of a maze to get confused on and it enhances the experience to see growth rather than erosion. The crowds are already there so directing the foot traffic seems better for the earth in my opinion.

    So now we have a question of lists. Do they draw more people to certain places? Are herd paths ruining the earth and the experience? Wouldn’t a trail be better for both? What if we stop talking and posting about these lists – will people stop going? As some have stated for some lists/peaks it may be too late. Will our children and their children lose the experience of the bushwhack, the skill and the untamed wild? Maybe, maybe not.

    As long as we have wilderness the opportunity is there to bushwhack, hone the skill and enjoy the wild. But will that experience be lessened by not reaching a viewless summit and a canister/sign? Maybe, maybe not.

    As we know, at one time the all the summits had no trails and some that have views now, didn’t in the past. Is the experience lessened when, say, you walk the Crawford Path? Not for me. Is the earth better off having a trail? I say yes.

    Am I saying that all summits should have trails? No. But if the traffic is there and isn’t going away what is better for the earth? People created these lists, people circulated these lists, people go to these peaks, people put canisters on these peaks for other people to come see and sign. Will it end? Maybe. (Thus my reference in the ‘other’ thread to Cabbage Patch Dolls.) It could just be the latest craze that will slowly pass -or- people will resist the urge to join the craze. Maybe not.

    People started it so people must preserve it.

    So I rephrase my question: Is it more important to preserve the experience or to preserve the earth?

  2. #2
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    Thumbs up another great thread!!

    but please don't include me in the "we" aspect of things. i have a great time out in the mountains. i don't consider myself a slave to the "lists". i like being out in the forest on untrailed peaks,it's pure adventure to me. i don't feel like i'm ruining anything by following a list or by bushwhacking to a peak. the adventure part of it ,reminds me of the times i've spent traveling when i was younger.(not that i'm done doing that) out on my own traveling to south america,central america, asia, europe,hitchhiking to alaska,or across canada,or down into mexico. that's what i was doing instead of whackin' to 3kers back in the day. in the other thread i almost started to feel i was breaking some kind of law by bushwhacking. well i'm over that! i'll be out there having fun,and not ruining anything!
    as far as a solution to all these dilemmas,i think if everyone is so concerned about the forest and the spread of info,they should remove themselves from all the hiking websites,get rid of their cell phone,and car,and i'll see and talk to you when i see you in the forest!
    Last edited by post'r boy; 10-16-2005 at 06:25 PM.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by carole
    It could just be the latest craze that will slowly pass -or- people will resist the urge to join the craze. Maybe not.

    People started it so people must preserve it.

    So I rephrase my question: Is it more important to preserve the experience or to preserve the earth?
    I really don't think that pursuing a list is a "craze", folks were doing it when I started hiking in the 70's. Most 3k peaks I've done in northern NH and in ME have been logged extensively. These peaks are covered with skidder paths, logging roads, and logging yards. At least ten summits have the wreckage of abandoned wind towers, and several more have old ruined fire tower debris on them. These places are far from pristine, and, as is a matter of fact, they are only visited once a year or even less. I really don't see how a few bushwackers are causing such a major problem doing the list of peaks they want to pursue.

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    Senior Member Pete_Hickey's Avatar
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    As I said in another thread, Wilderness and the environment are not the same. The little bit of a trail does nothing to the environment.

    I also asked, if it would be wilderness, if Disney were to build a theme park that SEEMED to be just like wilderness. If yo think so, then it is the experience that counts.

    For me, it isn't the experiece. I'll be happy knowing that there will be a piece of wilderness left on this planet, EVEN IF I NEVER GET THERE. I'd like to some area that has not been completely conquered by man.

    Many people talk about 'The Wilderness Experience". I don't use that term. It implies something that is experiencec, and, therfore, implies a HUMAN interpretation of something. In that case, Disney COULD create it. (whether it would make money or not is another question)
    There's no place like 127.0.0.1

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    Senior Member Chip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pete_Hickey
    In that case, Disney COULD create it. (whether it would make money or not is another question)
    On the tram from Epcot back to the Transportation Center we saw a REAL deer in the grasses,
    feeding serenely below us. We all looked at each other like "???"
    Dead Last > Did Not Finish > Did Not Start

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    Senior Member Puma concolor's Avatar
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    Save the earth, kill yourself

    I don't mean to make light of Carole's observations, but there are really bigger things to worry about than footprints in the woods.

    Since this website is comprised of many like-minded individuals, reading it often gives somewhat of a skewed version of reality. There really aren't that many people tramping through the toolies of the deep back woods when you compare it to the population at large. And as long as folks follow the basic backcountry "carry in, carry out" ethic, their presence is as insignificant as they are. The Adirondacks, for example, have gone through a few phases of regeneration following damage far more significant than a few hiker herd paths. Nature always takes back her own.

    I think it is part of man's fundamental arrogance to think he has as much of an influence on the earth as he does. When Big Mother Nature decides to flick us off like the maggots we are, she certainly will.

    In the mean time, the best thing to do is live, breath and bask in adventure. You never know when the ride will end.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Neil's Avatar
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    The potential damage being talked about on these threads is not really important environmentally as was just very aptly pointed out by Mark S. I agree that a bunch of messy herd trails are ugly but I agree more with Pete's take on this one. It's the potential loss of wilderness that should concern us here, not whether our hiker's boots are damaging the Earth.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Lawn Sale's Avatar
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    Agreed...well said.
    Appearances are not everything, it just looks like they are.




  9. #9
    Senior Member forestgnome's Avatar
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    I think that the lists serve to spread hikers out, by giving them a "reason" to hike something other than the Franconia Ridge, Presidentials, etc. Without the list thing, there would probably be hords on these mountains. On the other hand, do the lists that include trailless peaks bring an unhealthy amount of traffic that would otherwise not happen? I haven't seen many trailless summits that are on lists, so I can't judge. I do think that it's a fad that will fade.

    I do think that the lists result in more hiking trips; many hikers hike more often than they would if they were not pursuing some goal. I really don't think there is too much traffic on the trails in the White Mountains, however.

    I was bushwacking on the northern slopes of Mt. Chocorua today. There are paths made by moose in this area that look no different than the hiker herd paths. I don't think it's a really big problem.

    BTW, I didn't get to photograph any moose, but I did see two antler sheds. This was the first time I've seen antlers in fall, and the color of the hobble bush and birches were peaked. What a beautiful afternoon!
    Last edited by forestnome; 10-16-2005 at 09:45 PM.

  10. #10
    Senior Member mavs00's Avatar
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    Great points Mark, the earth is a whole lot older than us, and the good mother can, and will, flush the toilet on us one day. Can you say...... Bird flu

    Quote Originally Posted by carole
    Which is worse for the earth – a trail to replace multiple herd paths, trees cut to create a view or a list that is circulated?

    In one hiking area some tree tops have been cut to open up the view (and what an awesome view at that). The experience is enhanced and yet the crowds are not there because it isn’t on the list. Would it be better for the earth to not cut the tree tops? I see no harm done.
    Actually carole, I posted about view cutting in that thread, and perhaps that post is what this part refers to. To me, it was absolutly NOT a "save the earth" thing. A few cut trees in a sea of millions is, in the great scheme of things, nothing. To me, its boils down to individual selfishness.

    My point (in that post) was that IMO, in public wilderness lands, it's kind of selfish for the individual hiker to go ahead and "cut a view" for the rest of us, thereby determining for all those that follow "you'll get a view, and you'll like it". View cutting can be appealing, but alters a peak in such a lasting way that it fundimentally changes the experience for future visitors, and to assume that we have the individual right to do that, I think, is wrong. Mother nature may have that right (to alter it), but we as individual hikers should learn to accept what she gives us and leave it for the next person to experience in an unaltered state as much as possible, particularly in remote areas.......

    So in this respect, its not so much "preserving" the experience, it more just not "forcing" or crafting the experience to our own selfish liking. While there would be "No harm done" to the physical earth persay, I'd have to respectfully disagree that there would be totally "No harm done" overall.
    Last edited by mavs00; 10-17-2005 at 01:24 AM.
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  11. #11
    Senior Member Head's Avatar
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    If we all stopped hiking now...in a hundred years, it probably wouldn't matter! Mother nature has a way of taking care of herself and my short time of 'experiencing' the wilderness here, on the earth's timeline, is meaningless.(especially when most hikers are using 'Leave no trace' type ethics).
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    Senior Member KevCon223's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neil
    It's the potential loss of wilderness that should concern us here, not whether our hiker's boots are damaging the Earth.
    Very true!! This is the real concern.
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    Senior Member Pete_Hickey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Head
    If we all stopped hiking now...in a hundred years, it probably wouldn't matter!
    But we won't stop.
    Quote Originally Posted by Head
    Mother nature has a way of taking care of herself and my short time of 'experiencing' the wilderness here, on the earth's timeline, is meaningless.(especially when most hikers are using 'Leave no trace' type ethics).
    Of course in the earth's timeline, it's meaningless. But I don't care about that. I just care about the next few generations of humans.
    There's no place like 127.0.0.1

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Rooney
    I think the hiking community could do more to extoll the virtues of a health lifestyle
    I agree but unless worded properly it may not last on this site.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark S
    I don't mean to make light of Carole's observations, but there are really bigger things to worry about than footprints in the woods...
    I think it is part of man's fundamental arrogance to think he has as much of an influence on the earth as he does...
    In the mean time, the best thing to do is live, breath and bask in adventure. You never know when the ride will end.
    This is a hiking forum, not a save the world forum, therefore I’m discussing the ‘little’ things that may or may not matter in ones opinion.
    I think it is part of man’s fundamental arrogance to think he has as little of an influence on the earth as he does. Only man has reached the point of being able to destroy all life on earth.
    Some will enjoy to the end with their heads in the sand, and others will do what little they can.

    Quote Originally Posted by Neil
    The potential damage being talked about on these threads is not really important environmentally as was just very aptly pointed out by Mark S. I agree that a bunch of messy herd trails are ugly but I agree more with Pete's take on this one. It's the potential loss of wilderness that should concern us here, not whether our hiker's boots are damaging the Earth.
    Then perhaps my third point “(Which is worse for the earth – a trail to replace multiple herd paths, trees cut to create a view or a list that is circulated?”) the list is worse for the earth.

    Quote Originally Posted by mavs00
    Actually carole, I posted about view cutting in that thread, and perhaps that post is what this part refers to.
    I'd have to respectfully disagree that there would be totally "No harm done" overall.
    Actually, I was referring to places I have been, witnessed the effect and stand by my view (pun intended). What is the overall harm?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete_Hickey
    But we won't stop.
    I agree

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    Senior Member Nessmuk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Head
    If we all stopped hiking now...in a hundred years, it probably wouldn't matter! Mother nature has a way of taking care of herself and my short time of 'experiencing' the wilderness here, on the earth's timeline, is meaningless.(especially when most hikers are using 'Leave no trace' type ethics).
    Don't forget that Verplank Colvin, in his effort to accurately survey the Adirondacks in the mid-late 1800's cleared the peaks of many of the summits where we now still enjoy the view. Without his agressive clear cutting and burning those bald peaks would (presumably) remain viewless today. So 130+ years later it does matter. We are generally a bit less aggressive today... but only to a degree.
    "She's all my fancy painted her, she's lovely, she is light. She waltzes on the waves by day and rests with me at night." - Nessmuk, Forest and Stream, July 21, 1880 [of the Wood Drake Canoe built for him by Rushton]

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