"Fly fishing is my passion, hunting is my weakness, and mules are a perplexing addiction."

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Wilderness Experience (Re-defined)

Well folks, you'll be happy to hear that The High Sierra Hikers Association and some of their extremist partners are at it again. The HSHA has filed suit in San Francisco, no less, to require the Government to set aside the Sequoia and Kings Canyon General Management Plan adopted in 2007. And aren't ya just dying to know why?

Well, it appears the High Sierra Hikers Assoc. wants to dictate to you how you are to have your next Wilderness experience, and that those pesky stock people are at the core of the problem, as one might expect; they are an evil bunch, you know. It seems they aren't having a true "Wilderness Experience." It seems that when they visit the backcountry they are having entirely too much fun, not to mention, too easy a time. This disturbing fact doesn't sit well with the group and this apparently makes the HSHA mad enough to kick a hog barefooted.

Among the documents that lump all stock users as the villains for their alleged "devastating impact", they wish included in their lawsuit a letter from a disheartened hiker that states, in part, and I quote: "Three men who had packed into a campsite a few hundred feet away were enjoying the comforts of a full-sized, two burner Coleman stove, a folding aluminum camp table and cold beers, among other things." The quote goes on to say, "These people aren't having a Wilderness Experience, they are moving the city into the backcountry."

I know, I'm shocked and flabbergasted as well, but wait, there's more. The wizards of wilderness follow up those statements with, "The character of the Wilderness Experience that we can usually count on when three or four days from the trailhead is completely destroyed when a large group of people, (remember, they said three people) camp in the area with all the comforts of home, including alcohol and radios." Carrie Nation, where are you when we need you?

How dare those nasty, inconsiderate horse folks rely on a Coleman two burner stove. Everyone knows Campchef is a better choice; they have a four burner model! Then these inconsiderate stock packers had the unmitigated gall to have a beer and enjoy themselves. How greenhorn is that? They could have had a cocktail, for crying out loud! Must have been newbies? And if I know packers, (and I do) I'll bet they probably brought long a Rib-eye steak and the makings for a salad to boot. I ask you, what has this world come too?

At first I thought that maybe these poor souls with the HSHA were either simply jealous of the stock users, or didn't know chalk from cheese. After all, they were forced to subside for days on end dining on freeze-dried gruel, cardboard-flavored granola bars, and purified Iodine flavored water, all having about the same palate-ability as sea sponge. They were used to huddling around the soft glow of a flickering candle, singing Cumbaya and Blowin' in the Wind all evening. Then, attempting to drift off to sleep snuggled a two-ounce sleeping back that provides about as much warmth as a mortician's smile, it allowed them to feel the finite nuances of every pine needle, pebble, and pisant beneath them while they no doubt shivered the night away like a dog passing a peach seed. Who wouldn't be pissed after an evening of "wilderness experience" like that?

Then it hit me. Maybe I was just being cynical, and possibly these John Muir wannabes were onto something. Maybe we really do need to get back to having a genuine "Wilderness experience?" Maybe we should get back to basics and become one with nature. So I have proposed a set of guidelines I will submit to the Forest Service and other agencies next week to enact immediately for all folks wishing to travel into the backcountry. A series of guidelines to help each of us to truly have a "wilderness experience."

To begin with, there will be no more of this light-weight, hi-tec, Gore-tex stuff to keep you warm. No more stuff to that'll whisk away moisture as you're trudging up the side of a 10,000 foot peak and coughing up a lung. No more loading up on comfort items stuffed into your 12,000 cubic foot Hike-A-Matic 6000 backpack. Think buckskin!

Yes, we need to get back to wearing buckskin clothing like our forefathers before us. If it was good enough for Sacajawea and Jim Bridger when they went camping, it's good enough for you. Not only will you aesthetically blend in to your surroundings much better after slapping on some animal grease to break in your new duds, you can probably get to your out-of-the-way destination considerably faster while outrunning that curious bear who's been following your waft and who's considering inviting you for supper.

There will be no more of those light-weight, pop-up tents, either. Just tote along a good old fashioned axe, chop down a tree, and build your own shelter for the evening. Remember, trees are biodegradable and in twenty or thirty years no one will ever know your shelter was even there. If you're not Bob the builder, you can even sleep in a hollowed out log for protection, that bear won't mind.

You'll also need to sling "Ol Betsy" over your shoulder when you head out for the high country because you are going to have to eat. No more delicious dehydrated tofu burgers, processed cheese product, or tasty freeze-dried shrimp scampi; we're gettin' back to basics. Shoot a deer for supper, then jerk the remainder for trail snacks. Jerky is certainly healthier than granola bars and tastes far better than soy and raisin trail paste.

Not into venison? Just take aim and pop a squirrel off one of those high pine boughs with your old flintlock, they'll be tenderized after that second or third bounce, and after lunch you can make a fashionable hat out of the hide. And hey, those cute little chipmunks make for tasty after dinner delights; you can even plunk 'em with a wrist rocket. In case you're marksmanship isn't exactly of Annie Oakley caliber, you might want to bring along a couple of beaver traps, just in case. A dip into those icy creeks and rivers before breakfast really helps to work up an appetite.

Make sure you bring a flint along with you to get that roaring campfire going. No more citified matches, or those light-weight mountaineering stoves fueled by propane. You'll be tired as Jessica Simpson taking S.A.T.s after three hours of banging on a rock with your flint and blowing on wet tinder to get a flame.

Starting to feel that wilderness experience yet? You will when you discover you'll now have to practice your navigational skills by the stars. Yep, no more of those gawl-fangled GPS gadgets. Just pay attention to where the moss grows and you'll learn that the green stuff grows on the north side of trees, mostly...often...well, sometimes! And flashlights? You can leave them at home too. Talk about killing the mood of a wilderness experience. Ever awake in the middle of the night to nature's call and prematurely mess your britches on your way to the latrine when you encounter a bear? Not to worry, though, you're camp mates will laugh hysterically when you explain the next morning how the bear was really just a tree stump!

Well, there you are, folks, just some of the changes forthcoming so you too can enjoy a Wilderness experience you'll remember for quite some time. The way I figure it, if someone can dictate to you what a wilderness experience has to be, it may as well be me. Until next time, Happy Camping!