I need help to respond to one of Pacific Northwest loudest voices in the outdoor community Craig Romano. For those who don’t know, Romano wrote a recent post on The Mountaineers blog titled, “Trails Loved to Death”
Let me begin by summoning the great Johann Wolfgang Goethe, who wrote The Sorcerer’s Apprentice in 1797.
In The Sorcerer’s Apprentice an old sorcerer departs his workshop, leaving his apprentice with chores to perform. Tired of fetching water by pail, the apprentice enchants a broom to do the work for him – using magic in which he is not yet fully trained. The floor is soon awash with water, and the apprentice realizes that he cannot stop the broom because he does not know how.
The apprentice splits the broom in two with an axe, but each of the pieces becomes a whole new broom and takes up a pail and continues fetching water, now at twice the speed. When all seems lost, the old sorcerer returns and quickly breaks the spell. The poem finishes with the old sorcerer’s statement that powerful spirits should only be called by the master himself.
Remember Mickey in Disney’s original Fantasia?
In Germany, we often refer to this poem and it’s well-known line “Die Geister, die ich rief,” which translates to “The spirits that I called.” This is a garbled version of one of Goethe’s lines, to describe a situation where somebody summons help or uses allies that he cannot control.
In Craig’s article, he is on a rant. He’s serving up a sweeping blow to everyone and anyone around. He decrees that the outdoors are over-crowded and everyone’s to blame, including him. Sort of.
“Blame the Internet. Blame social media. Blame me and other guidebook writers. Blame the Washington Trails Association (WTA).”
Blame is the name of his game, and he points his finger at the internet. All the while, writing an article published on the internet, a tool he also frequently uses to promote himself and his work. Surely he must be flame-baiting, right? Well, let me take that bait.
After anyone and everyone gets a good dose of his blame, he serves his final blow:
“I’d like to spread much of the blame for the crowding at Blanca Lake, Snowgrass Flat, Lake Serene and and a handful of other areas on Congress and the President, and some overzealous environmental groups.”
Blame? Blame? Why are we blaming anyone here? All of this is supposed to be great, right? We want people to enjoy the outdoors. We want them on our trails. We want them to be healthy and experience the incredible world we’re living in.
He continues further and throw out some numbers that make the article sound educated before he concludes with:
“So, why does it seem that so many of our favorite hiking spots are being overrun?
Well, because they simply are.”
Translate: “Get off my lawn, I was here first and deserve this place more than you do”. I don’t need to present facts, or even reasons of why this might be bad. I just know, because I was here first.
After talking about about how beautiful our great outdoors are, and this being the reason why people are out there, he goes back to blaming “the internet” and all the ‘new voices’. It must really suck not being the only writer talking about hiking in the Pacific Northwest. Tough Noogies, dude. Even I get to write what I think on this weird thing called the internet.
“Which leads me to Meetup groups and other social media sites that, through their viral nature, can have hundreds of people trampling on a trail through a wilderness area on any given day.”
Does he speak on behalf of The Mountaineers here?
Is he implying that only people who have been members of well-established organizations have the right to gather, share information, and enjoy the outdoors together?
Sort of makes me wonder why The Mountaineers posted this article?
Does he really speak on behalf of them? Does this opinion represent this reputable organization?
Or are we to belief that there are some people to be more deserving of having access to public land than others?
At last, towards the end he buries a tiny nugget of truth in his article:
“We need more access, not less if we are to accommodate a growing population — and if we are to disperse them so that their impact is light and their outdoor experience is optimal.”
Yes, more access. That is the right direction. At last he hasn’t completely lost it, or has he? Of course he doesn’t really offer any ideas or solutions. Craig just wants to make sure that those pesky people enjoying the outdoors are not on his trails.
“Optimal experience” is not defined at all. But it surely must include staying far way from anywhere he hikes.
“We really need to hold ourselves accountable for not being more active in protecting our interests.”
Our interests? Yeah, he lost it.
I have an idea that would help with that accountability: How about some pitchforks. Gather on the edge of town and scare the newcomers away. How dare they want to invade his personal space, which hypocritically enough includes ‘public land’.
“We just need to make sure we can get to them first.”
Aha, we must be talking about a cast system. A hierarchy.
The deserving people~ the ones who’ve been writing guide books for many years and paid membership dues versus the undeserving, the simple folks~ The ones who hang out on pesky social media sites and go to ‘meet ups’.
Listen Craig, I didn’t grow up here, I’m relatively new to the Pacific Northwest and I’m raising two children here and they are hiking with me. Let me apologize for nothing, I love this place and I too want a piece of it, just like you.
But I got a solution for you. How about you stay off the trails for awhile. Stop polluting our environment with your thoughts, and your agenda. There are too many people like you, who have this sense of entitlement about the outdoors here in the Pacific Northwest, and quite frankly it stinks.
It’s my turn now and I feel like the trails are overrun by people like you, who secretly, and not so secretly wish that they could own this place for themselves.