I have something I wanted to get off my chest this morning. I know this is a complex issue and I know people have written volumes about the subject, so this wonâ€™t be anything new. But anyway, it feels good to talk about.
This weekend I went out to a protected â€œwildernessâ€ area near my home that is managed by the BLM. I started going there years ago before it was a protected area and simply a â€œWilderness Study Area.â€
It was largely unknown at that time and it took some effort to get there. When I went in those days, I could hike around a bit, throw down a sleeping bag and feel completely isolated in the middle of the desert.
Recently, this area finally received permanent protection and is a designated wilderness. This protects it from mining, drilling, etc. It also means there are no mechanized vehicles allowed.
However, the character of the place has definitely changed. The area has received some fame since its designation, and is now talked about in national publications as a fantastic place to take your mountain bike.
I went there seeking solitude this weekend. Itâ€™s been about two years since Iâ€™ve visited this area. There were about 10 cars parked at a new trailhead. I walked about 20 minutes up the trail before a wave of mountain bikers blasted by me.
I then saw about a half dozen hikers in the distance. Dogs, cell phones. Ughâ€¦.
For me, wilderness is in part about isolation and escape from the hustle and bustle of the world. This â€œwildernessâ€ now seemed more like an extension of the city, more like a big public park.
I found a secluded spot after about an hour to look at the sky and enjoy the silence. But to me, something wild has definitely been lost. It looks like I will have to go further and deeper to find true wilderness now. Iâ€™ll probably go back to the list of BLM â€œwilderness study areasâ€ to find something new.
While Iâ€™m happy there is a new â€œwildernessâ€ that has been protected from the pressures of development, I think it has lost something.
What do you think? Does protecting wilderness sometimes make it less â€œwild?â€