Meet the woman who knows Bears Ears best

Rockskipper

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I think the answer lies in having tons more grizzly bears everywhere.

I personally don't think sites like this one attract the same kind of people as sites like Facebook and Instagram. Someone who saw a cool spot on Facebook and wants to go there to take selfies to impress their friends is way less likely to appreciate the wilderness and thereby probably more likely to trash it - Hanging Lake is a good example. Places that take a little bit of work to get to, which is true of most of the places on this site, typically don't attract those who want instant gratification. But yes, there is a bit of cognitive dissonance to it all.
 

Jackson

I like to go outside.
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Joined
May 31, 2015
Messages
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I have been a guest lurker of backcountrypost for awhile now, but this topic obliged me to sign up and post as I think discourse on this is important. Through its tons of commentary, trip reports, and wonderful photos, Backcountry Post has been a great resource for me to find and discover all sorts of trips I might have never otherwise done. I have been very thankful for this information.

Which leads me to my next point: I think it's very ironic to hear these numerous complaints over people posting information on certain trips when many of the people complaining are also posting information to this site and/or have their own site they post to. Frankly, if you believe social media is the only instigator of bringing ignorant people over to beautiful areas that we cherish, I have news for you: the posts written by members of this very site consistently rank high in Google. Those posts are bringing traffic (good and bad) to these areas as well. So is it that you are allowed to post photos / information about these areas but no one else is? Please help me understand how you justify this.

This is a topic that has many interesting challenges associated with it. I don't have all the answers to the issues associated with overcrowding, but I do NOT believe security by obscurity is a viable or sustainable way to address this problem. I do think at least part of the answer lies in better promotion of LNT behavior and that those who post information about these areas have a responsibility to do this.

I agree that security by obscurity isn't the perfect way to solve the problem, but don't you think a bit more obscurity could at least help?

A great example of all of this to me is Coyote Gulch. It's in quite a remote location, far from any town or park. Regardless, it's overrun with people in all but the coldest months, and it keeps getting worse. Nowhere else around there sees that kind of visitation, though there are several other wonderful destinations nearby. I'd be confident attributing a good portion of that popularity to internet publicity in the form of posts on social media. I've seen it on Instagram on so many different accounts so many times. Other places aren't being shared nearly as much, if at all, so they're not overrun. It's a bit of an oversimplification, sure, but I think there's a good bit of truth to it.

As for BCP, I think it only works for certain people, like you and me. If a person who doesn't already know about this site lands here, it's likely because of a Google search, which in turn implies that they likely already know what location they're looking for. With Facebook and Instagram, people who would otherwise not care enough to research locations can instantly see a location on a map when it's shared. There is nearly no effort or commitment to the idea on their part. Most people I know are too lazy to do deep research, mapping, and planning to figure out where to go and what to see. They're going to look on something like @werutah's Instagram or do a Google search for "best hikes in [x location]" and simply take someone else's word for it. This site doesn't encourage that, and for that reason, I originally avoided it when it would come up in search results. It didn't have maps and route descriptions and every little detail I thought I needed (I learned how silly I was after a while). After I had learned to think for myself and find places to go, I realized that the site is about sharing experiences and photographs, not instructions and top 10 lists, and that's why I keep coming back. The people here care about the outdoors and preserving it, and they realize it's not some popularity contest to see who's been to the most places or takes the most awesome selfie somewhere.

Most trip reports written here that mention locations are from places already well known. If you look through the trip reports, you'll find several that avoid divulging either the location of the entire trip, or at the very least, the locations of sensitive points of interest. Most posters here are quite aware that what they're writing will become publicly accessible, and they tailor their writing to keep obscure things obscure. That's certainly what I do if I'm ever writing about somewhere not as well known, and I learned it as a result of using this site. You'll be hard pressed to find much that's comparable to Instagram, RoadtripRyan, The Outbound Collective, etc. on here. I think that's the kind of stuff people are railing against. I won't deny that some locations have been divulged here, but the people expressing their views here aren't the ones doing that.

Sorry for the long post. This is just something that I spend a lot of time thinking about, and I think it's far more nuanced than simplifying the attitudes expressed here here to: we superior BCP users can share whatever we want and no one else can.
 

wsp_scott

Member
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Joined
May 16, 2016
Messages
915
I have been a guest lurker of backcountrypost for awhile now, but this topic obliged me to sign up and post as I think discourse on this is important. Through its tons of commentary, trip reports, and wonderful photos, Backcountry Post has been a great resource for me to find and discover all sorts of trips I might have never otherwise done. I have been very thankful for this information.

Which leads me to my next point: I think it's very ironic to hear these numerous complaints over people posting information on certain trips when many of the people complaining are also posting information to this site and/or have their own site they post to. Frankly, if you believe social media is the only instigator of bringing ignorant people over to beautiful areas that we cherish, I have news for you: the posts written by members of this very site consistently rank high in Google. Those posts are bringing traffic (good and bad) to these areas as well. So is it that you are allowed to post photos / information about these areas but no one else is? Please help me understand how you justify this.

This is a topic that has many interesting challenges associated with it. I don't have all the answers to the issues associated with overcrowding, but I do NOT believe security by obscurity is a viable or sustainable way to address this problem. I do think at least part of the answer lies in better promotion of LNT behavior and that those who post information about these areas have a responsibility to do this.

As someone who posts photos here and has small blog with no followers, I don't think I am destroying the places I love. In fact, I deliberately don't post excessive detail about less popular places because I am worried about the wrong people (asshats) trashing them. A site like this one can be useful for researching an area, but I assume that a lot of the "good stuff" is not shared online. It is a bit like security by obscurity. I don't think it is a great option, but trying to teach/promote LNT through a blog or a post here is probably a loosing battle, but maybe I am too cynical. Instead, I think the 8th LNT principal makes sense.

If everyone followed LNT, we would not be having this discussion, but obviously that is not the case.

In other cases, some people just don't like their favorite spot getting crowded. I understand that perspective as well, but that is a different issue.
 

LarryBoy

Hiker Trash
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Joined
Jan 4, 2015
Messages
2,605
The push for a National Monument, right or wrong, to me is proof that security by obscurity is no longer a viable solution for Bears Ears area.

Agree with the whole "instagram is trashing the place" sentiment. On the other hand, I almost think that places like Coyote are the sacrificial lambs in an age of social media. People are as a whole fundamentally lazy, and for the masses, the choice is either Coyote or brunch at Gracies downtown. I'd rather have those folks at least out there. Getting people out is necessary for the sake of conservation and our collective sanity as a society. But that means that a small minority of beautiful places will get absolutely trashed.

It totally sucks to see Coyote overrun. But if that means that choprock abd fence canyon and silver falls canyon are protected for another century, I'm afraid that's the price we have to pay.

Oh and LNT is way too voluntary to ever work with large numbers of people. Fine for small numbers of dedicated outdoors people. For popular places, get those rangers writing tickets.
 

gnwatts

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Joined
May 19, 2012
Messages
1,859
Coyote Gulch has been crowded and the Utah canyon to visit for at least 30 years. Social media obviously did not exist then. We decided to visit the Escalante area after reading about it in the media.
We are not going to stop more people from visiting. Thoughtful and considerate people, and assholes. Just like society in general. Just because visitation increases does not mean an area will be trashed I think. Look at parks near L.A., San Diego and San Francisco. Spectacular wilderness, a short drive away from millions of people, and certainly not trashed. Education and public outreach about good land stewardship is the answer.
 

Ben

Member
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Sep 12, 2014
Messages
1,873
Every thing that @LarryBoy said. Obscurity is a fantastic defense when it works, but obviously is not a long term solution for all situations. Especially considering the increasing effect of the internet. I think it's easy to argue that making Bears Ears a monument last year has drawn much more attention to it, increasing some risk. But I believe there is solid logic in protecting some thing before it becomes necessary rather than after.

I also agree with the sacrificial lambs idea. Personally I'm willing to see one incredibly scenic spot crowded while the rest of an area is hardly touched. And in spite of the crowds, I think it's beyond a stretch to call Coyote Gulch "trashed". When I was there, I saw no evidence of people other than the use trails, and the people their selves. No trash, no destroyed camp sites, no graffiti. It remains in pretty great condition. Also, it seems to me a little conceited to judge where some one else should hike. To imagine that you 'appreciate it' more than some one else. Most all of those people in Coyote Gulch have just as much right to be there as you do. For many, the well defined trip down Coyote Gulch is exactly what they're looking for.

Finally, I think it's worth remembering that we're pretty spoiled out here in the West. The population is pretty sparse. There are more than 150 million people in Bangladesh, which is about a third the size of California. Things could be a lot more crowded. Personally I think that education and enforcement are better solutions than complaining on the internet that other people are going to the places that you like to go. I know this has gotten a little off point from your original post @IntrepidXJ , and I'm sorry for that, but I suppose that's a little inherent in the nature of an Internet forum.
 

LarryBoy

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I think it's also worth noting that we are part of the problem. Take me for example. I grew up back east and moved west after college primarily for the fantastic outdoor opportunities. I, and a whole bunch of people like me, am responsible for the growing population of the West. I am responsible for the increasingly strained water resources of a very arid climate. I am responsible for one set of footprints that created those use trails. I am responsible for recommending to my friends that they check out Cool Destination X.

So when I moan about crowds, it's time to look into a mirror. Yes, I hike and adventure more often than some other people. But that just means that my impact is larger. It's not like I'm a sacrosanct member of the "in" club who's justified in visiting beautiful places while the unwashed masses wait in line. If anything, I should be last in line, logically speaking. One trip to Bullet Canyon won't change my life, realistically speaking. But it might change the life of those four college roommates from Connecticut on spring break.

Thankfully, many of us on this site have the knowledge/experience/local info to be able to visit some of those out of the way places. Maybe keep those TR's a little bit on the vague side :)
 

Rockskipper

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Jun 11, 2017
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Well, I'm not part of the problem, because I'm fifth generation Coloradoan. Before that, my family came from...well...er...hmm someplace back over there.

Even the Native Americans came from someplace else originally. In fact, I think we all originally came from Africa, last I heard. We're a nomadic bunch, and a bit territorial, but I don't think any place belongs to one of us any more than another. I don't think the problem is really how long you've been out West, but it's more that there's just too many people on the planet these days.
 
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LarryBoy

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Well, I'm not part of the problem, because I'm fifth generation Coloradoan. Before that, my family came from...well...er...hmm someplace back over there.

Even the Native Americans came from someplace else originally. In fact, I think we all originally came from Africa, last I heard. We're a nomadic bunch, and a bit territorial, but I don't think any place belongs to one of us any more than another. I don't think the problem is really how long you've been out West, but it's more that there's just too many people on the planet these days.
Haha, yes, my point is that the population of the West is burgeoning these days, and all of us who live out here are part of the cause. The recent arrivees like me are just the most obvious :)
 

Rockskipper

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A lot of the burgeoning West is being populated via the stork, and I'm sure you got here before a lot of them did, and they can even say they're natives. If anyone asks where you're from, just say a DNA molecule and smile, then enjoy with impunity wherever you want to be. It's probably not prudent to tell anyone you're writing a guidebook and you know the place better than anyone else, though. :)
 

Kishenehn

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Dec 13, 2016
Messages
138
The outdoor West is going to continue to get more heavily visited, no matter what ... that's just the way it is, and we need to accept it. Trying (or pretending) to keep fragile or favorite places a "secret" won't be effective, and it just comes across as being arrogant. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't be concerned about the kinds of outdoor information that's out there -- quite the opposite, in fact.

Social media and mass-market print media is throwing more outdoor stories into the world than ever before, and the vast, vast majority of it is shallow and incomplete. Backpacker and Outside magazines are obvious offenders, endlessly recycling story themes along the lines of "Ten overlooked National Parks," "Ten quaint, undiscovered mountain towns," "Ten thrilling park trails," and so on. Stuff like that is shiny, appealing ... and terribly superficial. The same is even more true of nearly all the material you see in Facebook and other social media outlets. Cookie-cutter articles and postings, designed to appeal to advertisers or sell destinations or monetize page views. It's rare when those pieces are actually composed by people who are intimately familiar with the landscapes they're hawking ... but depth is usually ignored even when knowledgable outdoor authors are at the keyboard, because depth doesn't encourage more clicks or ad views or gear sales.

All this media certainly encourages outdoor travel and lifestyle in volumes we've never seen before, but I tend to think it's mostly a glossy brand of travel that has less forethought and depth and that is sometimes less respectful of the destinations that are visited. In travel information, and in travel itself, much of America is going for quantity over quality ... and it's not the sort of travel I think the world should be focusing on.

Forums like this, though, are the antithesis of our trend towards shallow, Facebook-level travel. There's some real depth here, and genuine love for the places we experience, and though there's an amazing amount of information it sometimes takes a while to ferret it out. It all encourages, I think, more thoughtful trip planning, a stronger sense of place, and a more honest and deep appreciation of our outdoor landscapes. And of course we hang out here because we have that appreciation ourselves ... we're not just trying to fill a book contract or hawk overpriced fleece jackets.

Anyhow, though it may sound a little self-indulgent and hokey, those are my two cents. The world needs less Facebook, and more Backcountry Post! :)
 

Nick

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Joined
Aug 9, 2007
Messages
12,934
What I want to see are more trip reports like Wasatchwill taking one of his girls backpacking. Now that's quality. Backpacker and Outside could never match that.

Long ago I almost took on a partner here at BCP. The plan was to make it into something really big. Maybe like quit our day jobs big, who knows. The thing that killed it for me was when my potential business partner told me that those kind of basic trip reports were mediocre and that we needed to attract more epic people and reports to make it more like Backpacker and Outside. From there it was all downhill. If this is mediocrity, I love it. :)
 

LarryBoy

Hiker Trash
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Joined
Jan 4, 2015
Messages
2,605
Long ago I almost took on a partner here at BCP. The plan was to make it into something really big. Maybe like quit our day jobs big, who knows. The thing that killed it for me was when my potential business partner told me that those kind of basic trip reports were mediocre and that we needed to attract more epic people and reports to make it more like Backpacker and Outside. From there it was all downhill. If this is mediocrity, I love it. :)
On behalf of everybody, thanks for not. Seriously. I don't come here for the epic stuff. I come here for the people who have a genuine love, and a genuine knowledge, of the places they're visiting.
 

Udink

Disappointed, passed over.
Joined
Jan 17, 2012
Messages
1,532
The outdoor West is going to continue to get more heavily visited, no matter what ... that's just the way it is, and we need to accept it. Trying (or pretending) to keep fragile or favorite places a "secret" won't be effective, and it just comes across as being arrogant. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't be concerned about the kinds of outdoor information that's out there -- quite the opposite, in fact.

Social media and mass-market print media is throwing more outdoor stories into the world than ever before, and the vast, vast majority of it is shallow and incomplete. Backpacker and Outside magazines are obvious offenders, endlessly recycling story themes along the lines of "Ten overlooked National Parks," "Ten quaint, undiscovered mountain towns," "Ten thrilling park trails," and so on. Stuff like that is shiny, appealing ... and terribly superficial. The same is even more true of nearly all the material you see in Facebook and other social media outlets. Cookie-cutter articles and postings, designed to appeal to advertisers or sell destinations or monetize page views. It's rare when those pieces are actually composed by people who are intimately familiar with the landscapes they're hawking ... but depth is usually ignored even when knowledgable outdoor authors are at the keyboard, because depth doesn't encourage more clicks or ad views or gear sales.

All this media certainly encourages outdoor travel and lifestyle in volumes we've never seen before, but I tend to think it's mostly a glossy brand of travel that has less forethought and depth and that is sometimes less respectful of the destinations that are visited. In travel information, and in travel itself, much of America is going for quantity over quality ... and it's not the sort of travel I think the world should be focusing on.

Forums like this, though, are the antithesis of our trend towards shallow, Facebook-level travel. There's some real depth here, and genuine love for the places we experience, and though there's an amazing amount of information it sometimes takes a while to ferret it out. It all encourages, I think, more thoughtful trip planning, a stronger sense of place, and a more honest and deep appreciation of our outdoor landscapes. And of course we hang out here because we have that appreciation ourselves ... we're not just trying to fill a book contract or hawk overpriced fleece jackets.

Anyhow, though it may sound a little self-indulgent and hokey, those are my two cents. The world needs less Facebook, and more Backcountry Post! :)
You almost lost me early on, but I finished reading through your spiel and actually agree wholeheartedly. I've refrained from posting a lot of trip reports here 'cause they're not "epic," but your post made me realize that many TRs here are not that kind of epic and don't need to be.
 

LarryBoy

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Joined
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Messages
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You almost lost me early on, but I finished reading through your spiel and actually agree wholeheartedly. I've refrained from posting a lot of trip reports here 'cause they're not "epic," but your post made me realize that many TRs here are not that kind of epic and don't need to be.
OTOH, I find the "epic" trips to be the hardest to write about. How do you summarize 200 miles, or 2000 miles, in a single article? There's so much to communicate - but you just can't, given people's attention spans. Course that depends on how good of a writer you are... :)
 

Rockskipper

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Well, my first and only TR here was spending the night in my FJ up on a hill in the backcountry above Baggs, Wyoming. The only thing epic about it was when I had to get up in the middle of the night to take a leak and found I'd locked myself in (FJs don't have an inside hatch door handle). I had to crawl over the headrest to get into the front seat to open the door and landed on my head. I didn't put that in the TR because I didn't want to out-epic everyone with my first TR. Next trip I'll try for something even more epic, but I sure hope I don't cut my arm off or anything like that.
 

LarryBoy

Hiker Trash
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Joined
Jan 4, 2015
Messages
2,605
Well, my first and only TR here was spending the night in my FJ up on a hill in the backcountry above Baggs, Wyoming. The only thing epic about it was when I had to get up in the middle of the night to take a leak and found I'd locked myself in (FJs don't have an inside hatch door handle). I had to crawl over the headrest to get into the front seat to open the door and landed on my head. I didn't put that in the TR because I didn't want to out-epic everyone with my first TR. Next trip I'll try for something even more epic, but I sure hope I don't cut my arm off or anything like that.
Just in case, make sure you bring an ultralight titanium arm-saw next time out.
 
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