Wilderness: “…an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man…” Wilderness Act, Section 2(c)

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, which protects over 100 million acres of land from machines and development. Unfortunately, these spiritual places are coming under more and more attack. A few weeks ago a story came out in the LA Times describing a proposal to build what amounts to a strip mall in the Grand Canyon. Is nothing sacred anymore?

Even the idea of wilderness seems to be under fire. That same day an article in the New York Times suggested that we should we consider taking a more active role in wilderness management. Although the premise is well-meaning – it would be a shame to see some of our ecosystems die out because natural processes cannot keep up with the rate of climate change – intervening would ruin the premise of wilderness. Rather than try to be “reluctant gardeners,” we should be spending our time and energy on minimizing our own impact. Wilderness is not a place, it is a concept. And while our careless actions may lead to the destruction of many ecosystems as they exist today through pollution and climate change, through the Wilderness Act we offer these wild places the dignity to evolve on their own, untrammeled by man. They may not recover within our lifetimes, but they will recover. They may not be the same, but they will be wild. When it comes to wilderness, the only thing we should be doing is preserving more of it.

Wild places offer therapeutic healing that is becoming more and more important as the world is covered in WiFi networks and technology (I you missed it, read my post from last year, Why We Need Wilderness). If you have never spent a few days away from home, people, and the internet, I recommend you try it.

You don’t need to climb a mountain to experience wilderness, but in the summer, it is my favorite. A few weeks ago my friend Shawn and I climbed up Ruth Mountain in the North Cascades to soak in the glorious alpine views. We were surrounded by endless views of jagged peaks of the North Cascades, with over 100 miles of visibility in every direction. Mount Shuksan (pictured below) loomed over us, the Picket Range to our east, Glacier Peak and Mt Rainier to the south, and the American Border Peak(s) to the north. It was inspiring to see so much wilderness! It was also sadly apparent how quickly our glaciers are disappearing.

Camping in the North Cascades, Mt Ruth, Mt Shuksan

Home Sweet Home : Prints Available

My tent, pitched on top of Ruth Mountain, with a view of Mt Shuksan and (barely) Mt Baker, at sunset. This is absolutely one of the top ten places I have camped, surrounded by a 360° view of glaciated peaks in the North Cascades (about 10 yards outside of the national park boundary).

To celebrate wilderness, I’m headed off to Alaska for the rest of the summer with my girlfriend Aubrey, where we plan to spend 10 days in a kayak, and two weeks hiking in the largest contiguous wilderness area in the United States: Gates of the Arctic National Park, which is part of a 12+ million acre wilderness area (of course, we will only see a minuscule fraction of that!).

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2 Comments to “Home Sweet Home in the North Cascades”

  1. kelly morgan says:

    Inspiring, as always. Thank you & safe travels.

  2. Hope to see your pictures from it. Anyway, It is nice see a conutry where conservation is on the headlines. Here in Brazil we only have corruption and misuse of government money. Sad, Sorry for that.