How can we preserve the wilderness experience but still encourage others to get outside?

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Solo Road Trip Adventure

Recently I started sharing some of my personal photography, images that I take on my road trips to other national parks, Route 66 towns, ghost towns and other treasures that I find along the way. I really love “discovering” these places as I go.

On my last trip, I went to a ghost town, sculpture garden, hot springs, rivers, a national park, small blips of cute little communities, an opera hall and saw wild burros. I found all of these things in the journey between the destinations, not chasing the metadata of anyone else’s photos or their Instagram hashtags.

I stopped on the way back from my adventure to experience a natural hot spring. I had it to myself for only 10 minutes. I took a few photos and it was stunning but it didn’t really tell the story of the place I was experiencing so I set my camera in the grass on the shore, set the self timer and took a self portrait. It was the first self portrait that I’ve taken in many years. I left my camera on the shore and shortly thereafter the solo experience was over and I was joined by three other bathers.

After this solo road trip, I returned back to my home at Grand Canyon, developed the photos and hesitated in posting them. I’ve always been a photographer but these kind of photos have always been just for me to have and cherish and to help remember the landscapes I’ve traveled through and how I felt in them.

It took no time for people to ask me to share my locations. Someone asked me to go back and tag the locations in my travel photos for them. They desperately wanted to know which hot spring I’d taken my self portrait in. I immediately felt uneasy and guarded. I took a step back to examine my feelings.

What is my position with social media? Do I want to expose the treasures that I’ve discovered to potentially thousands of people? What will and what is becoming to our sacred places? Do I want to geotag photos of places that I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing a private moment in?

The answer to all go those questions is: NO. No, I don’t want to share. No, I don’t want to risk the quiet and serenity that I’ve discovered here and there and everywhere but I encourage you to set off on your own adventures – find beauty on the side of the road and discover your own place in nature but please, forget the metadata and leave the location out of it.

So I won’t share my favorite spots with the world. I’ve lived at Grand Canyon for 10 years, I’ve seen the sacred destroyed. People carving their names in rocks of the canyon walls – spray paint graffiti and more. I’ve seen Shoshone point, once a local secret overrun with tourists. The experience has changed and I’m not sharing mine.  I won’t contribute to the snowball effect that sends droves of people into places that were once known for their solitude.

How can we preserve the wilderness experience but still encourage others to get outside?

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