Sunday, August 11, 2013


    Outdoor sports, more than any other endeavor, are subject to location.  

Hiking, camping, hunting, fishing—the venue alters the nature of all of these in a way that makes their pursuit in every state, country, region, and continent unique.

    Hikers and mountaineers dream of the Appalachian Trail, of the Rockies, the Alps.  Primitive campers muse over the little-touched wildernesses of Canada and the boreal North.  Hunters fantasize of African Safaris, Midwestern bucks, and Alaskan adventures.  Fishermen lust for the flats of the Bahamas, for the sea-fated rivers of Patagonia.

    Within each sport there are such destinations—ideals—, locales that are the most highly sought after by its devotees.  Challenge, bounty, and environment perfectly married define these.  What we know of each respective region, we know by the thumbnail of its epitome, the world-renowned figurehead of a bigger picture.

    But the values that we cherish and apply in selecting our “dream” or “once-in-a-lifetime” trips operate devilishly through the masses.  For when the spotlight is shown on any “secret” or “escape,” what results is an adulteration that strips it of its bare defining essence.

    And as a trend, this unfortunate assassination of wild and endearing places shifts focus.  By way of the media, there is, at any one time, a most-revered destination that is represented to the point of endangerment.   As time passes, the allure runs out, and emphasis is shifted to a new up-and-coming paradise, and its integrity too is compromised by exposure, by none other than the ones that treasure it the most.  Without care and conservation, the best of the best may be picked off one by one.

    The land that surrounds such places are reflections—lesser, as the general community decides—or rather, such places are the reflections of their surroundings.  But these are the details that beg our attention.  Neglected by the traveler’s eye, the land and the water that lies between these places are tailwater dreams—precursors to a bright and rich future.  These are the places that commit elements to the final product.  There is no better way to collect in your soul and mind the true identity of a place than to experience these lesser-knowns.

     Just as their more prominent relatives, the lesser-knowns are tinged with local flair.  The quality of recreation will vary on a more humble level, but is probably a better representation of the region than the outpost location.

    In the space between, there is enough opportunity to distribute the pressure placed on the environment into manageable amounts, to provide for solitude, the grand desire for adventure, and to teach understanding and stewardship by instilling a love for the natural world through that ever-present sense of wonder that outdoorsmen possess as a breed.

    This in itself is a saving grace.  For with the parts of the whole preserved, even when ruined, the wilderness wonders that host our dreams remain resilient—restorable, at least somewhat to the initial glory.  And without these hidden, overshadowed gems, our sports and their venues may be taken and destroyed at face value.

    As outdoorsmen, we have a certain responsibility to understand and be guardians of that country we prospect.  Capitalizing on their bounty, with no regard for what makes them, is selfish; and to do so without a thought of the consequences is a vile injustice to the world with which we were entrusted.  These basic conservation values are tossed around freely, practically, everyday; but too often people take them superficially.  Respect and cherish all wild things, all wild places—ecosystems, river systems, wilderness areas—regardless of prestige.  The places of your wildest dreams belong to a range of mountains, an expansive watershed, and the complex interdependent circle of life.  The loss of these things, though not apparently of value to the masses, would spell a critical blow to the environment; and it is these places that deserve our unconditional care and attention.

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