The Art of Creative Bushcraft

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When Tourism Invades Your Sanctuary

Note: This piece does contain my opinion, but I will attempt to show it’s validity.

Everything is controlled by the dollar. Little else seems to matter in the whole scheme of things. There is that soul crushing moment when you wake up one day to find your favorite unspoiled hangout has been forever changed, and will never be the same. Your experience will never again be the same when you go there. You realise that you’re going to have to look wide and far for a new spot, that spot that recharges your soul, feeds so well your own brand of well being and contentment.

This has happened to me recently, not in an instant, but over a period of the last few years. But it finally hit me this year.

My spot is forever gone.

Lake Siskiou and Mount Shasta
Pristine Lake Siskiyou

My spot was a spot only the locals really went to. This place is known as North Shore on Lake Siskiyou in Mt. Shasta. Whether heading out with the family to swim, or going out for a quiet hike or some silent contemplation while wetting a line, this was my favorite place. The nature was stunning. The view of the mountain range looming across the lake, draped in white snow in the winter, or pine forest green in the summer, is a scene forever etched in my mind as one of the most beautiful I had ever seen.

Let me start by saying that I understand the plight, financially, of these small little towns. A part of their income does indeed come from tourist dollars. But if one visits Mt. Shasta today, one sees two things; a whole lot of tourists, and struggling business. Restaurants are closing, despite the vast and rampant increase in tourism since I lived there 9 years ago. It makes me question how important the tourist dollar is, contrasted to the destruction the increase in people causes.

My lakeside spot is just one of those victims.

Let me explain.

The idea, sponsored by the Mount Shasta Trails Association, was to build a hiking and bike trail, complete with a massive bridge and another foot bridge, all the way around Siskiyou lake. Not just part of it. The whole darn lake is now ringed by this thing. Bridges have been built crossing the feeder streams to the lake, to accommodate people who want to get to certain areas that formerly, heartier souls such as I, would have to wade or swim to get to. These places were the last bastion of relatively untouched, quiet “remoteness” left, and it’s been bridged.

The lake has been transformed from a place of quiet contemplation, personal time, and a little trout fishing to a lake of constant noise, boats and swimmers playing loud music, and well, just noisy. Not to mention, cars parked all over formerly lovely meadows and woodlands.

“But love of the wilderness is more than a hunger for what is always beyond reach; it is also an expression of loyalty to the earth which bore us and sustains us, the only home we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need – if only we had eyes to see.” – Edward Abby

So what has happened? What are the consequences?

Perhaps the Mount Shasta Trails Association and President Joe Worth have gotten their precious tourist dollars. I don’t really know, but I know of businesses in the area that are still hurting.

crowds at lake siskiyou tourism
Tourists at Lake Siskiyou. Credit hldean

What I now see at my former favorite place is an overused gravel road, with non-residents speeding down it at 40 miles an hour, throwing dust high into the air and covering the vegetation with this dust. Literally all of the surrounding plants are white from it. It is plain UGLY. If you happen to be walking anywhere near by, you’re greeted with these choking dust clouds. But now we have a trail to walk on!

Every spot where one can access the lake for fishing or other activity is now full of screaming kids and pool floats of various sizes and blinding colors.

Before I go further, I have to make an important point. I don’t begrudge ANYONE the enjoyment of the outdoors, and in fact I do encourage it (part of the purpose of this blog), but that is until it takes away from the natural beauty of a place.

Until bulldozers have to modify it to suit the needs of humans, or in other words, dollars.

“The greatest wonder is that we can see these trees and not wonder more.” Ralph Waldo Emerson – Nature

Nature and wilderness should be enjoyed at nature designed it. After all, is that not the glory of it?

People who live in Mt. Shasta often make an economic sacrifice to live in a place without the robust economy of a large city. I call upon these development groups to let these people enjoy their sacrifice and to stop imposing your will on them.

The woods, and what nature we have left in the world, should be taken care of responsibly, and not looked at as a blank slate for development. Why do we feel the need to plow through it, step all over it, sit on it, drive through it like it’s a damn highway, and otherwise spoil it?

“Wilderness is a resource which can shrink but not grow… the creation of new wilderness in the full sense of the word is impossible.” – Aldo Leopold

It’s the people who have dollars who are modifying these places in their own vision and purpose, leaving the average Joe with no say in the matter. This false altruism and self serving agenda has caused many other projects to continue in Mt. Shasta, with more coming down the road.

For example, the Mt. Shasta Trail Association plans to build mountain bike trails all over the side of Mount Shasta. Here is an excerpt from a story in the Redding Record Searchlight:

“A six-mile loop trail off Everett Memorial Highway that would connect a series of mountain bike trails. The Trail Association has a $100,000 grant for that project and hopes to break ground on it this spring [2011]. And if Worth has his way, this “Gateway Trail” will later be extended several thousand feet up the mountain, following John Muir’s original route, all the way to Horse Camp at 8,000 feet.”

Why??

Bikers can use the road. Believe me, the Everett Memorial will give anyone a workout like you wouldn’t believe. The Mountain does not need any more scars on it to support the well-to-do in their hobbies.

How about a nice hike on existing trails, or ride a mountain bike on one of the numerous forest service and fire access roads that already cris cross the mountain. Buy a nice surplus ALICE pack to carry your gear in. The enjoyment, then, is the location, the wilderness, and the beauty, not some high priced hobby that many are excluded from due to cost.

Why do the people with the money get to carve things up however they see fit?

It only benefits them. Not everyone can afford the $1000 mountain bike, and the required stylish biking outfit and water bladders.

The Mt. Shasta Trail assn. mission statement goes like this:

“The Mount Shasta Trail Association promotes hiking in the Mount Shasta region of northern California. We build trails, advocate for more access to trails and trail protection, and work to conserve the natural beauty of our area. We have partnerships with several local groups and are very active in our work.”

It seems this statement is not saying everything it should. They need to add a few points:

  1. Promotes and protects economic interests, namely tourist dollars, at the expense of the pristine nature of the forests and the feelings and interests of ALL the locals, not just business and government interest.
  2. Promotes hiking and mountain biking.
  3. Should be modified to read: “Protect trails at the expense of the natural beauty of our area.”

Admittedly my agenda and the Mt. Shasta Trail Association agenda are different. They want to promote outdoor activities which happen to take place in areas that have great views. My agenda is to preserve these great views in their pristine state, not bulldoze trails through it and encourage, frankly, too many people being there at the same time.

Mt. Shasta Trails Association, and organizations like it, operate on a kind of utilitarianism or greatest happiness principle, calling for the greatest enjoyment for the greatest number of people. Fill up the trails and forests with throngs of happy people. This leads to happy business owners rolling in the (theoretical) piles of tourist dollars. This, of course, ignores the needs or desires of the few, or the needs and best interests of the landscape, geology, cultural issues past and present, history, wildlife, and geology. What would the world look like if we operated on a utilitarian bases all of the time? Little imagination shows us that it would be pretty frightening.

I have little doubt that some thought the trail was the best thing. At the same time, they probably have little idea or little care, for the crushed souls they left behind.

I now understand, if only just a little, how the Wintu Indian Tribe must have felt when these same tourist money interests tried to build a ski resort on top of their sacred spring at Panther Meadows.

That would have been tragic, and the Wintu people showed that the poor can in fact beat the money interests, if and when they take an active role.

There are fewer places of pristine beauty left to enjoy, we should preserve as much of it as possible.

There are enough planned, paved, renovated and altered places in the world. Leave what we have left alone. Besides, when humans try and “manage” a natural environment, the results are always a worse job than Mother Nature can do herself.

Final thought for today. I know this is my opinion, and others see things differently, filtered through their own personal interests and desires. It was Marx (he’s not just about socialism, so put away your pitchforks and torches Tea Partiers) who discovered that is is our own thought that is a product of our social circumstances. Additionally, much of what we believe to be “reality” is but a reflection of our own socially determined interests. He noted that governments, media, and even individuals put forward alleged facts and explanations that are selected (known or not) and distorted according to the interests of their formulators.

I’m likely as guilty as anyone about this. But I think we are wise to default to the role of conservation and if in doubt, don’t scar what wild areas we have left.

People who live in Mt. Shasta often make an economic sacrifice to live in a place without the robust economy of a large city. I call upon these development groups to let these people enjoy their sacrifice and to stop imposing your will on them.

“For unnumbered centuries of human history the wilderness has given way. The priority of industry has become dogma. Are we as yet sufficiently enlightened to realize that we must now challenge that dogma, or do without our wilderness? Do we realize that industry, which has been our good servant, might make a poor master?” – Aldo Leopold

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