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Keeping the wilderness wild.

March 29, 2009

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When we were wandering around in the snow in Yosemite, I wandered off the paths a few times– I was trying to catch pictures of the snow falling in clumps from the trees. I wandered quite far off the paths, and when I did that, I noticed that I was much happier where I was than on the path. When I stopped to analyse why I preferred it away from the trails, I realised that it had something to do with the trees beside the roads and trails.

img_2995They’re tired.

These lovely big old trees do not have the same vibrancy that the more wild trees have. I’m thinking that maybe it’s BECAUSE they’re not as wild anymore. There’s nothing wild about a concrete path. Or about big fancy hotels and cars and art galleries. It’s interesting to me how what I had assumed would be one of the most wild places I’d ever seen was more like a wild animal that had been captured and put behind glass for observation.

Take Mirror lake, for example. A few years ago, the upper lake was in danger of filling up due to silt collection. So the park people came and ‘rescued’ it. And then there’s a pretty fountain built into the side of the trail on the way up to Vernal falls because water drains down the rock that way, so now this fountain catches this water and leads it under the path.

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Why could mirror lake not evolve, and take its natural course? Why could that trail not have a big patch of water that people would have to navigate around? What is it that people go to see in these places? Is it the beauty and magnificence of the wilderness, or is it actually the great feats of the human animal in taming this wildness.

Think about us– it’s not in our nature to be the same people for our entire lives. But we have so many expectations and obligations. Acting ‘out of character’ likely gets you anything from a funny look to a doctors visit. But what is this character? I’m sure that some people who are extremely set in their ways would say that they came out of the womb as this character, but I think that more people are aware that they wear different personalities for different people, and I’m sure that if they looked at why, they could see that they choose to keep this personality on every time, because disturbing the equilibrium just isn’t the done thing. We as a society do everything we can to suppress the wildness in people. I’m sure there are people who don’t agree. I’m sure that it’s much more safe and secure to be around somebody with no random variables. It’s easy to shove someone in a box and turn our attention off. I think we want to turn our attention off. To turn our attention inwards instead of outwards. In fact, when somebody or something makes us stop and reevaluate our perceptions, we are often quite upset by it. But I love these upsetting things. I love people and places that have a spark of unpredictability, and a tad of the untamed.

So it makes sense that, as people who like to have things stay the way they are, we don’t like to let nature evolve either. I mean, what if mirror lake overflows and turns into Mirror swamp.

*shudder*

Then we’d have to change the names and all the signs and all the maps, and possibly put up warning signs and a new path and a new sign about the different wildlife. And not only that… When I was young it was Mirror lake. Oh, how things change. Oh, how sad it is. That once beautiful lake is now an ugly swamp. These are the effects of change. We’d best do everything we can to prevent it.

I really appreciate the efforts of the national park service, in keeping places like Yosemite open and looking after them. And it really truly is one of the most magnificent places I’ve ever seen.

But.

It’s a little bit like a disneyland. It’s not nearly as bad as the Shrine Lake in Los Angeles– a ‘holy place’ I was once told to go and check out because of its beauty. It was REALLY like disneyland. Really truly. With a fake waterfall and everything. And lots of planted flowers, and little grassy areas, and a meditation room by the lake with strange fountains in the water. It looked more like a country club than somewhere holy. Yosemite is not even in the same league of fakeness as this. Obviously. The rocks are still massive, and the mountains are wild, and the water is so powerful, and it’s impossible not to feel dwarfed by the sheer power of nature when you’re there. I feel like I’m bordering on heresy by even suggesting that this wildness is starting to disappear.

But when I was there I was daydreaming about what it would be like if they only let a certain number of people in at a time.
And if they only allowed a few electic vehicles. And if they had environmentally friendly lodging that had a minimal impact on the environment. Or even camping room only.

I spent a lot of my time in Yosemite imagining what it would be like if it was allowed to be completely wild.

And wondering if there is any real wilderness left in the world, or if it is all being ‘preserved’.

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