Wild Wilderness

o those whom suggest not hiking the PCT as a form of protest against trail markings, I think you’ve missed the point. If you wish to hike a trail that is fully marked and fully safe, go hike the AT or the Bay Area Ridge Trail. If you want to hike the PCT, famed for it’s “wilderness qualities”, then accept that maintaining that characteristic is a noble thing. We’ve paved and signed most of the world. I personally like that there are places in this world where you can walk long distances having to watch your step.

But! I didn’t know that Fuller Ridge and the section of trail in question was already marked. Knowing that, I would fully support raising those signs above the average snowpack. This just makes sense and we wouldn’t be losing anything that hadn’t already been lost. So, for this issue, I’m ok with temporarily flagging the trail while the push to raise the signs is underway. (EDIT: this entry was an email in response to this issue)

What troubles me is that the discussion of reducing trail risks can go too far. Already, people are talking in broad strokes about “dangerous sections”, not just Fuller Ridge. Should we put a bridge over every “dangerous” stream? A lightning rod or a hut on every pass? Water caches in the desert? (oh wait..) All of these things might seem very reasonable. But it’s a slippery slope. After we’ve taken care to mark Fuller Ridge, surely people will want to mark another new area. I REALLY don’t want to hike a trail that has a marker every 200 feet. Do we want someone to put wands up through the Sierra this year so that we can stay on trail? Forester has posed a particular risk to a wide variety of people. But I’d hate to see it fixed with ropes. If you want ropes, go climb Everest. Keep Forester Free.

This discussion has been going on for a long time in Wilderness Areas. What modifications should we allow to create safety in a backcountry setting? I think that the Wilderness Act strikes a decent balance. Trail blazes are discouraged, mechanical tools not allowed, huts taken down,… Risk is created again. Yet they still maintain trails and supply maps. It’s doable but not easy. Safe but still risky. I’m sure that many (most?) PCT hikers value wild wilderness. I’m hopeful that the PCTA does as well. I greatly appreciate all of the hardwork that goes in to maintaining the trail and helping out hikers. But there is still a limit. I wouldn’t want someone sweeping the trail before me, thank you very much.

My reasons for maintaining wildness on the PCT aren’t merely aesthetic. I genuinely think that we get more out of nature than a pretty picture.

That’s enough of this never ending debate for me. Let’s continue it on the trail someday.


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