Ever since the book “A River Runs Through It” and the movie that followed, the spoilers and takers have rolled into Montana and basically fouled every stretch of wilderness waters and remote countryside they could spread their filth on, over, or up against. Talk about loving a place to death. It, along with Colorado, is a perfect example of Californication, of the type Wyoming would be wise to avoid if it’s not to late.
I don’t care who you are or who your father was, there are wild places that should be allowed to remain pure and unmolested. Wyoming thankfully still has some of these. Places in the wild country that need to be above the adulation of the multitudes of wilderness worshipers and high rollers and robber baron merchants who need to see and control everything. There are places that should stay secret, without boot tracks in the dusty or muddy places. Places with green shady glens and quiet brooks bubbling happily through pastures carpeted over with wildflowers being visited only by painted lady butterflies and busy, pollen-seeking bees.
Place where the bush folk can gather and be the animals their creator meant them to be, where they can rest and raise their young without gaggles of unappreciative onlookers. Remote places, wild and savage and peaceful, existing through eternity without the interference of profit-seeking humans and their minions.
If you go there, it should be work. Hard work. Work that discourages 99% of the earth’s human population. Like free-styling to the summits of obscure mountain peaks, you should be there only because of the strongest of desires. Not because of some travel brochure or book/film. You should be part of it, not apart from it.
Trails should be left in a primitive state, not improved until they become casual byways. Roads, if allowed at all, should be allotted on a meager basis. It shouldn’t have to be a dedicated, by law or by congressional fiat, wilderness, but one of those wonderful places where humans are the intruders, unless they belong there. Which most don’t.
If folks aren’t among the wealthy few who own and use horses to pack their trash and truck all over creation, then shanks’ mare should be the order of the day. A backpack and a canteen and perhaps even walking sticks and liniment to rub on the sore spots later. A little mole-skin wouldn’t hurt. Still, even horse packers need to recognize the value and irreplaceability of these places and enter with caution and leave with modesty, taking their filth with them.
There shouldn’t be an improved trail to every remoteness, whether wind blown vastness, gnarly rock garden or forested paradise, just so everyone’s 10-year-old can chase gophers and collect rocks or someone’s 80-year-old uncle can belch beer suds while sitting in a chaise lounge over the Labor Day weekend and contemplating how great nature is. We have enough of that. We have national parks and state parks ad nauseum. Complete with concrete walkways, vaulted toilets and toilet paper. All the nature the majority of our population can appreciate.
Why do we, as a people, continually strive to improve the remote trails and endanger scarce and precious resources, just so a few hundred more people, most of whom don’t even understand the wheres and hows of a cat hole toilet, can pay someone in the chain of commerce more money to screw up a really unique and exceptional wild and remote place, like Sheep Mountain, just so they can say they’ve been there? Or to make their access to remote hunting easier? Like it’s a contest or a thing, it’s similar to seeing how many mountain peaks over 14,000 feet you can bag in a year. It’s pure ego. Yeah, been there too, how juvenile and ultimately destructive to the environment.
Just so you know, I’ve been on both sides of this scenario. Sandi and I started out with backpacks and whatever else we needed on our backs. As we gained in material goods, we did the Western thing with the horses and tents and stone-ring fireplaces, eventually defaulting or evolving to steel-sided campers, ATVs and propane heat, refrigeration and stoves. Then we retired and that gave us a few years to reflect.
I just enjoyed my life more, back when we had less obvious access to the wild world. Back when one had to want to be there, when it was more than some weekend diversion or another chance to belch gas fumes into the air from your ATV and tear around the countryside. All of this more access to remote country for everyone brings more regulations in the government-controlled public property, along with more supervised oversight and less privacy. All of which is rapidly diminishing my enjoyment of this outdoor-oriented life. I suppose that’s only natural, but it’s not high on my list of favorite things.
There’s an old saw that says, “Too many cooks spoil the stew.” Or broth. Or maybe it was barbecue? Whatever. The influx and overload of humanity exploited just so some high roller can make more money prostituting our wild lands are upsetting to me. As humans, we’ve been screwing up this planet every since Omar the tent-maker figured out foreigners would pay good money to see those sacred places where the royalty were buried. More money involved with touching, investigating and studying those unfortunate royal corpses frozen forever in time. It’s human greed and the need to do.
My faith in the righteousness of this human experiment has been diminished over the years, after watching the greedy foul this planet beyond belief purely for their pecuniary pleasure. And the clueless simply because, well, they’re totally clueless. And no, I don’t believe in man-caused global warming, it’s just the planet doing it’s cycling thing as far as I’m concerned, but there’s money to be made by stirring up the Chicken Little people. And political power to be gained.
Wasn’t it Robert Frost who wrote, “I took the path less traveled and that has made all of the difference”? One of the greatest lines in literature, maybe the greatest.
What follows is just an aside for an old friend, albeit a tad late: Go with God, John, and rest easy, Marine! Your tour of duty is over now. Thank you for letting us know you.