Whiling climbing down the steep slopes of Palo Duro Canyon, I struggled to find my footing on the slippery gravel. I rounded the corner and ran into a woman making the climb up in nearly knee-high boots and jeans – fashion boots and jeans, two miles into a canyon. But before I could think my judgmental thoughts, I heard the woman fuss at her husband for not informing her of what she was getting into. I was instantly taken back to many scenes with my ex-boyfriend.
Scenes where I would dress for a day visiting with his parents, only to find myself ankle deep in the mud flashed in my head. I understood her struggle. I feel like as outdoorsy people, we are too quick to judge.
We are put off by those who have a blatant disrespect for nature and sensitive ecosystems. But we tend to rope everyone who isn’t like us into that category.
This includes newbies to nature and the outdoors lifestyle who may not have been advised of Leave No Trace outdoor ethics yet. And as a blogger, I believe it is my duty to teach that.
While on a hike the other weekend with a friend who loves the outdoors we saw a balloon on the ground … in the middle of nowhere. She confessed it wasn’t until a few years ago that she realized balloon releases were bad for the environment.
“I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before?” she said. “It clearly is littering.”
We say we want the outdoors to be for everyone, but we don’t really show that when we scoff at those we see hiking in flip flops in the snow.
I actually did see that at Glacier National Park, which sounds crazy. But not when I present it like it was. It was a warm day in July. My friend Lagena was actually in a tank top. We had driven to Logan Pass, the highest point in Glacier accessible by car. We got out to go for a quick walk. And I’m sure we were not the only ones who took that impromptu hike on that warm July day.
Again, like the woman in fashion boots, I’m sure the flip-flop-wearing hikers hadn’t planned on hiking in the snow.
Now, I know someone is going to point out that to be prepared is one of the Leave No Trace Principles. But as I said, maybe they had yet been advised of them. And perhaps they were going to turn around when they were out of their comfort zone. We don’t know, so we shouldn’t pass judgment.
While hiking off a crowded 14er in Colorado, towards the bottom where it got really crowded I heard a lot of murmurs about the hikers who were just getting started.
“They don’t have enough water.” “Are they going up in those shoes?” “They are getting way too late of a start. They’ll never make the summit before it gets dangerous.”
And while I was on a crowded peak near Denver, which does attract many who don’t know what they are doing, and hiking a 14er unprepared can be dangerous, it isn’t our job to judge, but rather teach.
First, I didn’t know if they were going all the way to the summit or not. My guess was if they were not prepared, they would never have made it.
Perhaps like the woman in the fashion boots or the hikers wearing flip flops in the snow, they were only going to hike a little way and turn around.
I do need to note that if we see someone doing something that is dangerous, like bothering wildlife or standing dangerously close to a crumbling cliff, we do need to say something to them. But do so in love and understanding. Remember that you were once new and didn’t know the rules. This also goes for if we see someone blatantly disregarding the rules.
I already had the blog post planned out. And then yesterday a woman publicly made fun of a friend of mine for mispronouncing John Muir’s name. The comment sounded as if the woman was saying that my friend was not outdoorsy enough because she didn’t know how to say John Muir correctly.
You know what, it doesn’t matter if you know how to say John Muir’s name or not. If you love being outside, you’re outdoorsy.
We say we want the outdoors to be accessible to all. So let’s not be so quick to judge but instead be quick to teach and lead by example.