Two weeks ago my girlfriend, Aubrey, and I headed out to the mountains to enjoy the fall colors and early snow. We had limited time, so we chose the easy, and thus popular, hike to Lake Ingalls. Knowing that most hikers are hesitant to camp in the snow, I suspected we would still be able to find some solitude by camping. Indeed, there were only a few groups in the basin, and it was easy to find a spot away from any other tent. The golden larches stood out beautifully against the snow, like burning flames, while the massive Mt Stewart looked over us. The snow cover helped damp out any sounds, and we had a peaceful afternoon away from civilization.
Just a few minutes before sunset, however, two loud hikers came down the pass, and decided that the only spot they were willing to pitch their tent was 50 feet from ours. Out of the nearly square mile of snowy terrain they could have chosen, that was going to be the spot. Even after I politely asked them if they wouldn’t mind settling down at a different site. I was reminded of my friend Guy Tal’s recent blog post about Vanishing Experiences. In his article, Guy wrote about the irony of encouraging folks to get out into the great outdoors, only to find his own experiences ruined by the lack of solitude. Although I agree with his conclusion that there are no solutions, I believe we can go a long way towards preserving these experiences if people make an effort to follow the unspoken ethics of wilderness camping.
The backcountry is the only place we can get away from the hustle of modern society and experience a deeper connection with the world around us. Please, help preserve this opportunity for everyone by respecting people’s space in the outdoors. With out peace and quiet, wilderness loses its power.
In the end, we decided to pack up and move our tent to a new spot, and enjoyed a quiet night under the stars, followed by a glorious sunrise surrounded by golden larches and sparkling snow.