Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Why "A Walk in the Woods" will be A Nightmare in the Woods (updated)

Today I am seeing all over the clip for the movie coming on Labor Day. "A Walk in the Woods" with Hollywood’s Robert Redford. I see it and shudder.


I work out on the AT as a ridgerunner in Shenandoah National Park. I am already witnessing the increased usage on the trail and what that means. Overflowing huts (shelters in Shenandoah), full privies, toilet paper flowers, burnt out cans and cigarette butts, gallons of garbage. 

Please don’t mistake me. I am thrilled when newcomers come take their first walk on the AT. When people post pictures and experiences of their times. I do all I can through education and this blog to get them ready.  If I could count on hikers who followed the Leave No Trace principle, who were courteous, who carried out their garbage, who did what they could do to protect the trail and the environment, themselves and each other, I’d rest a bit easier.

But that isn’t the case. Already I am seeing such increased usage that areas are being stretched beyond capacity, and the movie hasn’t even been released. And the usage by hikers who don’t know and don’t care. Garbage is overflowing. Tents are stacked on top of each other as hikers wrestle for space.
One of the AT huts, May, 2015, and tents everywhere. Pre-movie.
When there is no space, they ignore camping regulations and camp wherever they want, even with their dogs by the springs. It’s already a nightmare out there and it hasn’t even begun.

I shudder also that trail organizations seem woefully unprepared for the coming onslaught and coming damage. They don’t seem to understand what is going to happen. Nothing has been planned. No action has been taken to cope with the masses that will flock to the AT after this movie comes out. I’ve had some higher-ups ask me as ridgerunner what will happen. I say it, but that’s it. Nothing has been done. 

Now it is too late. The masses are coming. There will be unprepared hikers (and more rescues), garbage galore, campfire pits and campsites scarring the land. Shelter areas strewn with trash,
15 gallons of trash found in a privy, May 2015 - pre-movie
with overflowing privies, and worn-out volunteer maintainers that can’t keep up and get burned out.

Thanks a bunch, Hollywood. "A Walk in the Woods" will become the AT and the maintainers' Nightmare in the Woods. 

UPDATE 8/6/15

Since this posting, the ATC has instituted the #protectyourtrail initiative. Please become involved and show what you are doing to #protectyourtrail via social media and through pictures! By doing even a little we all do a lot to preserve the trail and a wild, walk -in-the-woods experience.

1 comment:

Dani Keating said...

I hope what you've predicted doesn't happen but I know it will, sadly. I'm in Spain finishing the Camino de Santiago...the movie The Way exponentially increased foot traffic at the 100K mark, but most hikers have been respectful of the trail. They are Camino Tourists in my opinion and don't "get it" so I understand your thoughts...