The American Alpine Club (AAC) is currently supporting a trail restoration project in Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina. For we hikers and climbers, this type of effort should be up there in our priorities for giving financially right after general efforts to preserve wilderness, like the work by the Alaska Wilderness League or Friends of Clayoquot Sound, for instance. However, the idea of the need for such work is contrary to our sense of simplicity and enjoyment of the outdoors.
Trail restoration is odd when juxtaposed to our notion of valuing wilderness. In an extreme position, wild places ought to be untouched, sacred from society or civilization and man in general, except for perhaps spiritual sojourns. But more reasonably, we want to enjoy our wild spaces and geographical and biologically unique places on Earth. So we permit modest intrusions, like foot paths, bridges and the occasional ladder. It allows us access natural wonders without trampling them to oblivion. God forbid that the land and biological things change too quickly because we visited, rather than by natural forces like tectonics, wind and water.
In the same way that a society requires rules and rights for the people to be free, our wild places need paths and limited infrastructure in order for we trekkers and mountaineers to roam wild.
Think about your favorite wild place and consider the infrastructure as part of your assurance that that place will be there for you in the future, even as the trails encourage more to come.
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