As my outdoor “career” has progressed, I’ve learned new, or enhanced existing, outdoor skills…mainly through trial and error!
- Map reading and compass use became more efficient.
- Learning to plot out a route by looking at map.
- Picking a good campsite.
- ..and so on
All skills that were refined the more time spent outdoors.
But there are other skills I had to learn along the way, too, as this website has gained more readership.
Mainly, striking a balance between giving information and sharing a place without giving so much detail it is less of a wild place.
I learned the hard way that if a person gives detailed instructions on a backpacking trip (what maps to take, trailhead directions, trails to follow and other specific information) , the law of unintended consequences may kick in.
(It was also a lesson in that more people read this silly little website than I realized at the time!)
And it is a trend I’ve noticed. If a person gives out an exact way of doing something, even if the route existed in one form or another for a long time, the route becomes popular. Throw in an acronym for some alphabet soup hiking, and the popularity is insured.
Giving detailed instructions ala a guidebook is not necessarily a bad thing. There is an obvious niche where people want very detailed information on how to spend their outdoor time.
But, at least for me, I’ve realized giving detailed instructions is counterproductive in some ways. In the increasingly busy mountains of Colorado, trying to keep certain spots, routes or camping locations a little obscure is important for me.
Older posts of mine won’t be edited. However, some astute readers have written me. They noticed that for reports written within the last year or so, I’ve been vague in giving specific details of the places where I’ve been. Guilty. 🙂
As Aaron of TrailGroove magazine succinctly puts it:
“There also seems to be a big difference between saying “Here’s the route I took, here are some photos, and check out my trip on this map” and something like “Here is THE route, this is the map, here are the coordinates and campsites“, and then critically, giving it a name… “
I think it is important for these areas to be known. Without some use, it is hard to justify protecting the wild areas in my opinion.
On the other hand, giving the exact way of doing something can turn the wild areas into something to check off a list. Less of a wild area and more a city park with limited cell service.
Give the person the tools (overall area and information) and a wild place can be experienced. Give them the bread crumbs? A lot of people are lead a certain way, and in many ways, have the experience as done by someone else…
Of course, the advantage of OTHER people placing breadcrumbs means I know to avoid those specific places and do something on my own. 😉
Update 2017: I wrote a follow-up article about Social Media Ethics. If I had to sum up the article, I’d call it “Obscurity, not secrecy” as the overriding principle.