Tag Archives: hike

If Rules Don’t Apply When Civilization is Intact, Then What Happens When…

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In our society, the veil of civilization is at times peeled back to show the fine line between what constitutes ‘civilization’ and utter chaos. Apparently, laws really are optional, and pleas for forbearance on behaviors must only apply to a minority of people.

One area where I’ve noticed this in recent months is in the midst of doing outdoor activities. Of course, on the trip to and from locations, I see an incredible number of drivers talking on cell phones and texting, despite it being against the law.

The first example was during a day hike at Cunningham State Park. There’s a trail that leads to falls. I hadn’t been there in a long time, so the built-up trail that ended with a platform area for viewing the falls was new to me. Posted signs state that you need to say off the area around the falls, and one stated that it’s a delicate environmental area. That didn’t stop the horde of people who were on the outside of this decking platform, frolicking in the water after tromping through that sensitive environmental area. One man, who was carrying a baby, could barely gain foot-purchase on the slippery rocks. It was mind-boggling, the number of people looking for ways to circumvent the guided trail in order to get to the water. The rules didn’t apply to them. Delicate environmental areas are a concern for someone else—not to be a hindrance to their wants.

The second example was during another hike at Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area, there is a prominent sign at one of the trailheads that states bicycles are prohibited. I was walking on the trail, zoned out in a nice, nature-induced meditative state, when I was shocked out of it by someone behind me saying, “Excuse me.” It was a guy on a mountain bike. The rule didn’t apply to him. Or maybe he justified it as he rides a “bike” and not a “bicycle,” if you’d like to twist yourself into a knot to give the benefit of the doubt. (In which case, he should have had a guardian accompanying him since he can’t navigate the real world and understand meaning.)

The third example was during a kayaking jaunt at an area that’s a proposed national marine sanctuary in the Potomac River: the Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay. These are scuttled ships dating back to World War I. It’s a historic site, and there are signs requesting that people stay off the shipwrecks. However, two boaters had pulled up into the exposed back of one and climbed aboard to set up a tripod—scaring off the osprey nesting there—and take cheeky selfies. Rules—and respect for something historic that can’t be replaced—did not apply to them.

It’s a challenge to not get disgusted with all people, based on the actions of the few. (Actually, at the Falls, it was the masses scrambling all over the sensitive area–the few were on the built-up pathway.) And because my mind bends in that what-if direction, it’s even more of a challenge to not extrapolate out to a wider context with higher stakes. What if the SHTF (“stuff” hit the fan) and it was more than delicate environmental and historic sites at stake? One would hope people wouldn’t be so glib about following the rules that are in place for the common good.

Expect the best, until proven different? Or be prepared for the worst, and pleasantly surprised should you see the best? I’m hanging onto hope should we ever find ourselves in the midst of an apocalypse.

Nature Disconnect and the Handshake Deal

urban woods By choosing to live in an urban area, I am disconnected from nature. Often achingly so. While I can step outside into my yard and enjoy the benefit of grass, trees, flowers, the calls and songs of birds, and a view of the sky overhead, it’s only a stop-gap connection. I can still see, hear, and smell civilization. So, I must actively seek opportunities to get into a deeper natural place, and if I don’t have time to travel far, it can be a Soviet era-style selection for suitable local areas.

While I make the effort to get out, I know not everyone has an interest. And, some people are not just disconnected—they never had a connection to start. This was demonstrated once when I met up with a buddy for a little day hike. The particular urban oasis we chose was a forty-five minute drive. My buddy had apparently invited along a friend and the friend’s pre-teen daughter. The more the merrier, so it’s said. But it didn’t turn out to be very merry. The friend showed up wearing jeans on a hot day, carrying a big purse on her shoulder with intent to take it with her on the trail.

But children can be just as disconnected as adults. We’d hardly sallied forth before the young girl began dragging her feet and then altogether stopping, saying she didn’t feel well and looking about as miserable as a preteen can look when forced to do something in which they have no interest. The mother convinced her repeatedly to keep going but at a certain point, said she’d have to take her back to the car. (Unfortunately, they’d carpooled with my friend). We weren’t that far in, and I knew somewhere ahead the trail looped back so that they could reach the start point with relative ease. A couple of times I said I was pretty sure we were close, but it had been a while since I’d been to that particular park. The woman, who I had only just met, snapped at me, “Well don’t get us lost!”

I didn’t snap back that I hadn’t signed up to be a trail guide because I could hear the panic in her voice. I also didn’t point out that it’s hard to get lost in the woods when in certain spots you could hear—and see—the traffic from the road as well as homes dotting the way, visible through the trees. It’s not anywhere close to being desolate, but to this woman, we may as well have gone past the point of no return. It made me think about the handshake deal we in urban landscapes make, where we give up some degree of independence and form an interdependence for our survival. We also give up a feeling of comfort in what is our natural world. When an urban oasis is considered daunting, I would hate to see what would happen if society ever collapsed. People do adapt. Or, they don’t.

I’ll be talking, along with my writing partner, Sandra R. Campbell, about another form of survival: collaborative writing! We are presenting a workshop at Mid-Atlantic Fiction Writers Institute on Saturday, August 8th. If interested, here are the details:

Website: www.mafwi.org

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Twitter: @mafwihcc