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What is wilderness?

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What is wilderness?

Postby Arthur Digbee » Fri Apr 16, 2010 1:59 am

While we were bushwhacking through a rhododendron forest in the Smokies this weekend, a backcountry novice said to me, "Now THIS is wilderness!"

Off-trail, on a mountain, in dense bush - - OK, that's a kind of wilderness. I didn't disagree.

But what do y'all think? What makes a place "wild" ?
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Postby Bob Sihler » Fri Apr 16, 2010 2:40 am

For me, it's territory that's so remote or so rugged or so alien that it deters most people from entering. Sometimes it is steps from the car. Other times it is miles away from the parking lot. The stream you bushwhack along until you reach the obscure waterfall is in the wilderness. The mountain lake 15 miles in that the masses use as a base camp to climb the trophy peak-- not really.

There's the legal definition, but there's also an emotional one. I've been in many a "wilderness area" that didn't have the wilderness feel, and I've been in non-designated areas that feel as wild as anything I've ever experienced.

The Everglades, what's left of it, is wilderness. The Okefenokee Swamp is. The rhododendron forests of the North Carolina ridges and hollows are. The West, of course, is teeming with wilderness both mountain and desert.

There's also a purity factor. You know, Arthur, many of my thoughts on "pure" mountain wilderness and why I think Greater Yellowstone, the Bitterroots-Frank Church country, Bob Marshall country, and Glacier are the best places for it in the Lower 48. I need the howl of the wolf and the track of the grizzly, even if I don't hear the former or see the latter.
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Re: What is wilderness?

Postby lcarreau » Fri Apr 16, 2010 2:45 am

Arthur Digbee wrote:
But what do y'all think? What makes a place "wild" ?



Three "wild" women dressed in dirndls drinking draft beer !!!
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Postby John Duffield » Fri Apr 16, 2010 2:53 am

Hard to define, but I know it when I see it.

Off-the-hook bugs may be a common denominator, or impenetrable vegetation....

A couple of samples:
A peak in Hondurus, climbed once by a group of Peace Corps volunteers, took them two weeks to hack their way to the top.

An island in Canada, the vegetation so interlocked I had to stay on the cliffs or beach.
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Postby drpw » Fri Apr 16, 2010 3:30 am

I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of lands I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description ["wilderness"]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the lands involved in this case is not that. [Emphasis added.]
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Postby Arthur Digbee » Fri Apr 16, 2010 4:01 am

Bob Sihler wrote:For me, it's territory that's so remote or so rugged or so alien that it deters most people from entering. Sometimes it is steps from the car. Other times it is miles away from the parking lot.


Is that "physical challenge"?

Bob Sihler wrote: The stream you bushwhack along until you reach the obscure waterfall is in the wilderness. The mountain lake 15 miles in that the masses use as a base camp to climb the trophy peak-- not really.


Is that "solitude"?

Bob Sihler wrote:There's the legal definition, but there's also an emotional one. I've been in many a "wilderness area" that didn't have the wilderness feel, and I've been in non-designated areas that feel as wild as anything I've ever experienced.


Agreed. Yellowstone has no designated wilderness.

This one is a designated wilderness but it's, uh, pathetic.

Bob Sihler wrote:The Everglades, what's left of it, is wilderness. The Okefenokee Swamp is. The rhododendron forests of the North Carolina ridges and hollows are. The West, of course, is teeming with wilderness both mountain and desert.


How about (a) beaches? (b) caves? (c) prairies? or (d) marine wildernesses?

Are some terrain types just more wild? Why?

Bob Sihler wrote:There's also a purity factor. You know, Arthur, many of my thoughts on "pure" mountain wilderness and why I think Greater Yellowstone, the Bitterroots-Frank Church country, Bob Marshall country, and Glacier are the best places for it in the Lower 48. I need the howl of the wolf and the track of the grizzly, even if I don't hear the former or see the latter.


I know what you mean, but I wonder how that translates elsewhere: if you're in the Amazon, Kalahari, Sinai, Himalaya or Borneo you won't have wolves or grizzlies. Do you need something that can eat you?

The legal definition includes intact ecosystems, which is true of those great places you list. But it's also true of an Olympic tidal pool. Nothing there will eat you.

I hope.
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Postby ktnbs » Fri Apr 16, 2010 4:17 am

I recall, probably in the 60's, reading a biography of Robert Mitchum. It had photos. And one of the photo's showed Mitchum's pickup camper parked by a river and it was titled something like... "Robert Mitchum on a camping trip in the wilderness"
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Postby Arthur Digbee » Fri Apr 16, 2010 4:27 am

ktnbs wrote:I recall, probably in the 60's, reading a biography of Robert Mitchum. It had photos. And one of the photo's showed Mitchum's pickup camper parked by a river and it was titled something like... "Robert Mitchum on a camping trip in the wilderness"


Even better: http://www.americanwildernesstours.com/
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Postby drjohnso1182 » Fri Apr 16, 2010 4:33 am

drpw wrote:I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of lands I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description ["wilderness"]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the lands involved in this case is not that. [Emphasis added.]

If in high school I would have hidden any pictures of said lands under my mattress for fear of my mom finding them, it's wilderness?
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Postby lcarreau » Fri Apr 16, 2010 4:34 am

People gotta make a living somehow! As long as they have a permit from Uncle Sam ...

That doesn't make it "right," but is ANYTHING right in the world anymore ??? ??



Image
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Postby Scott » Fri Apr 16, 2010 5:35 am

What is wilderness?


Apparently a brand of RV's:


http://www.wildernessrvs.com/
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Postby Clark_Griswold » Fri Apr 16, 2010 6:18 am

Wilderness can be pretty much anything to anyone. To the USFS, it's a political designation for administrative purposes. To a city liver, it's trees with a road to a campsite. To a hiker, it's solitude, and peace. To a forester it is vast tracts of wild and probably unlogged land that is near to pristine as possible. One thing is for sure. It's a place that chainsaws and fire fighting is legally allowed, but mountain bikes and bolts are forbidden.
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Postby BLong » Fri Apr 16, 2010 6:58 am

My favorite parts of the legal definition are locations that offer opportunities for "solitude or primitive and unconfined recreation" and are "untrammeled by man."
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