Caring for the Outdoors
by Martin Bril
In the past few weeks, I’ve made a radical change and I am standing by it.
I decided to stop posting pictures of my trips on Instagram.
I know it is quite a serious decision but it is one that I feel good about.
As you know, this year has been fairly chaotic in all aspects of life, not excluding the outdoors.
In fact, I have never seen so many people venturing in the backcountry than before the Covid situation we are experiencing.
*For more information about hiking during Covid-19, please read these facts and plan accordingly.*
You could say that this is a great change, as people should go outside and explore as much as possible. I believe it is a great medicine for the spirit.
But unfortunately, here in Alaska, this abrupt change created foot traffic that trails were never meant to accommodate.
The parking lots alone don’t have the capacity to deal with the number of vehicles that find their way to the trailheads every weekend.
Local secrets are now being published online for everybody to come experience what used to be a quiet hike in the mountains, only known by locals and dedicated adventurers.
Such intense usage becomes problematic in many ways: littering, trail erosion, improper distancing, trespassing, damage to bordering private properties.
There used to be an access, mostly known by local climbers, that gets you into a valley with numerous sought after peaks that I got the privilege to use a few times myself.
That access was on a private road and local residents didn’t really mind of the couple strangers passing through once in a while.
It was in fact such a precious path, as the alternative route adds many miles to an already long approach. We were all very grateful for it.
But a few weeks ago, a sign was found at the main gate, prohibiting any crossing.
This came after a press article was published about hiking in the area and the mentioning of that particular access. In a few days, many people were seen crossing the private road in groups as well as ATVs. The local residents were having none of it and decided to shut it down permanently.
This really made me think about what I do in the mountains and how I share it with everyone else, mostly through Instagram. Am I setting a wrong example, letting people know where to go and starting a wildfire of interest in precarious environments?
I do not wish to be responsible for the destruction of the places I care so much about.
It is such a dilemma, as I also want other people to be able to enjoy the outdoors just as much as I do.
I concluded that it is all about balance, moderation and respect.
We all need to go outside, but the way we do it matters just as much.
Personally, I could have simply decided to keep posting pictures with no caption, letting the viewers take in the scenery and maybe get them motivated to go outside on dedicated official trails.
But in my decision, I also went after why I keep going on adventures. Is it really just for myself or for the attention and experience sharing with others?
It felt simply right to make a bit of a personal sacrifice in order to protect what I love doing.
Go outside, be mindful.
A few tips:
- if the trailhead parking lot is full, it is best to look for an alternative place to hike.
- When hiking in sensitive areas or places known to be mostly frequented by locals (no official trail signs, etc.), avoid sharing access information with others to prevent heavy traffic. You can still share your beautiful pictures though!
- Keep a few alternative trips in mind on busy weekends.
- Public land is a gift and as such we should try our best to keep it the way we found it for others to enjoy.
For more tips on reducing your impact when hiking, read more at Leave No Trace.