Are the Outdoors Overcrowded?

I don't say this lightly and it takes a lot for me to really use and mean this word but given my situation it just feels right. You guys, I LOVE the outdoors. What started off as a childish crush where I would sometimes flirt with the idea of running away into the woods yet always kept my grounding and returned home to sleep in my own bed has developed into much more. As I grew older, that crush has developed into a full-blown, head-over-heels, palm-sweating, debilitating obsession that can only be described as one thing: love.

And it comes as no surprise because nature is awesome. The outdoor world makes me laugh and smile even when I've been feeling down or had a rough day, it reminds me to slow down and take a breathe when I'm feeling stressed, and through all the other turbulence in life it has always been there to calm and comfort me. Plus, the outdoors pushes me to be my best and always presents new, fun challenges. Whether it's climbing a mountain, running a trail, kayaking a river; the wild places keep me coming back for more. 

I guess I knew when I started this crazy affair that inevitably others were going to equally fall into the trance of outdoor love. I can't blame them. Sometimes, it's even nice to share that love with others as it creates a special bond between myself and all the parties involved. Watching others learn the beauty and mystery of the natural world and gaining that love and respect for it is a cool phenomenon and evolution to witness.

Unfortunately, not everyone loves the same. In fact, some people show their love in ways which violate the outdoors. Over recent years, the growth of popularity in the outdoor industry attributed to social media and other factors combined with the accessibility through developments such as national parks, trail associations and more has lead to an overcrowding combined with and a lack of education. 

And that's a difficult dilemma! 

How can we continue to have access to the outdoors for everyone yet make sure individuals involved are educated in sustainable outdoor practices? My rule of thumb (and it's a little harsh) is that if you don't respect something, you shouldn't be allowed to enjoy it. Mountaineering can be taken as an extreme example yet is a sport I personally participate in. Mount Hood is a mountain. It is not a day hike or casual stroll. People who recognize that fact and respect the mountain and all the education, preparation and gear required to attempt a summit deserve to enjoy the experience of mountaineering on Hood. However, those individuals who do not respect the mountain are the ones who often times liter on the trail, get lost and are most likely to incur injury. It is a generalization and I am the first to admit it, yet there is some truth to the assumption that without respect negative consequences will follow. 

Now with that passionate love of the outdoors I was discussing earlier comes another crazy emotion connected to wanting to protect the thing I love (let's just say I'm pretty defensive of the things I care about). So even though this blog is new and I can't expect to reach millions, I'd still like to take a minute to share some outdoor practices that are important for preserving the natural environment so that future people and generations can enjoy and fall in love, too. 

Leave No Trace (LNT) is the most fundamental level or preserving the outdoors and is the absolute minimum a person should be practicing when heading out into the natural environment. There are seven basic principles to LNT:

  • Plan Ahead and Prepare
  • Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  • Dispose of Waste Properly
  • Leave What You Find
  • Minimize Campfire Impacts 
  • Respect Wildlife
  • Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Take a moment to really process the importance of each of these steps and how you can implement them in your next adventure. Let's show our love by showing respect.