I wanted to write about something that's been bothering me lately: what happens to nature attractions when they become more popular and receive more visitors.
I tend to share my experiences and the places I've been to with my family and friends on social media. I love taking pictures while I'm hiking or visiting a nature attraction. I find most places to be so beautiful and amazing that I want to share them with everyone I know. If they can't be there to experience it, I want them to experience it as much as they can through pictures, and I hope that one day they will be able to see it in person.
I've realized lately that this is a bit hypocritical given my recent feelings. On one hand, I do want everyone to experience these places. On the other hand, I want to keep them to myself and to others who actually respect and appreciate nature.
Wanting to keep these places known only to those who respect nature is something I thought about when I recently attempted to visit the Columbia River Gorge area in Oregon. This area is known for its several waterfalls and for one of my most favorite places - Oneonta Gorge. It's a beautiful canyon with moss covered walls, a stream running through it, and a waterfall in the back.
While I was driving along the Historic Columbia River Highway, which was packed with hundreds of cars, I drove by the entrance to Oneonta Gorge. I saw how many people were heading into it, and I started to worry. I worry that too many people going through Oneonta Gorge will eventually destroy it. If it were a smaller number of mature adults, it'd be fine. But it's a huge number of people - families and children included. Kids don't always understand not to touch delicate things. Some teenagers and adults are disrespectful and leave trash or destroy something for the fun of it.
The last time I went to Oneonta Gorge, I saw several plastic bottles, aluminum cans, plastic bags and styrofoam cups in the stream or in the brush on the sides of the gorge. That upset me. I don't understand who would leave trash in such a beautiful place. I understand bringing in a water bottle to drink out of while hiking, but you're supposed to take everything back out with you when it's empty, not throw it on the ground. As for Starbucks cups and fast food cups - why are people even bringing these into the gorge? It's not a mall to stroll around in while sipping a drink. You will be climbing over logs and wading through the a stream, so you need your hands free. I hate that people who don't respect nature are even allowed in places like Oneonta Gorge.
I don't think that access to Oneonta Gorge should be restricted, but I honestly wish it wasn't so close to the road that just anybody can easily get to it. I wish it was a lot more difficult to get to so that those who don't respect and truly appreciate nature are discouraged from going there because of the effort it requires.
On a less serious note, one of the other reasons I wish only those who appreciate nature would hike or visit nature attractions is because some people ruin the atmosphere of being in these places.
I tend not to hike on the more popular trails in the Seattle area, but I have been on a few. Whenever I hike on popular trails, I pass several people who are blaring music while they hike. This bothers me because I came out to hike to get away from noise and to be in a location where it is quiet and peaceful. I like hearing the birds, the streams and waterfalls, and the leaves rustling in the breeze. I don't want to hear top 40 songs played from crappy speakers. If someone wants to play loud music, they should go to a bar. Or a sports game. Or a party. Don't come out to a pretty nature attraction or go on a hike and ruin the atmosphere for everyone else.
I know that hiking and nature are there for everyone to
enjoy and that everyone should be able to enjoy it the way they want. However,
if the way they want to enjoy nature affects other people’s experiences or is
destructive or disrespectful to the environment, then they should alter their
Crowds can be destructive to a nature attraction and they
can bring people who have a negative impact on nature. The more subjective
thing about crowds for me is that they bring down the experience. For me, it’s
not fun to go to a nature attraction that is crowded. One of the reasons I
enjoy nature is the solitude. I like going on a hike or
out to see something either by myself or with someone I care about, and we can
chat or not chat and listen to the birds instead. I don’t mind passing by other
people or saying hi to a fellow hiker at the summit, but I don’t want to feel
like I’m at the mall or at an amusement park. Waiting in line to go up a
mountain or see a waterfall is not my idea of a fun, peaceful time.
|I found this picture showing what Oneonta Gorge looks like when crowded. It doesn't seem safe or enjoyable for this many people to be in a line to cross the log jam.|
I’m sure there are people who don’t mind crowds. I just wanted to share some of the frustrations I’ve had in
the past year when it comes to popular nature attractions - more so the trash issue than the crowd issue. If there’s anything
I want people to take away from this, it’s to be respectful of nature and to
follow the rule of taking everything out that was brought in – leave nothing
behind. That would at least be a good first step.