Letters: Don't Change Too Much

Letters: Don't Change Too Much


I hiked a lot in Europe last year. The views were top notch.

In Italy’s Cinque Terre, for example, you get mind-blowing vistas within minutes of stepping off the train. Coming from car-brained Canada, I thought this rail-to-trail deal was incredible.

But after a while, the stairs, handrails and pavement started to dull the shine. At times, the crowds crept through chokepoints: a throng of flip-flops and Bluetooth speakers. A café serving Aperol spritzes on top of a cliff felt like a strange dream.

Cinque Terre is far from the backcountry. But it’s emblematic, very broadly speaking, of the European approach to the outdoors: a bit more accessible, a bit more sanitized.

So when I read Corey Buhay’s excellent piece in Issue 5, in which experts predicted that America's backcountry could soon, out of necessity, "more resemble Europe's," I winced.

Am I an elitist jerk, I thought? Isn’t it good to get more people outside? Yes.

And yet, from Montenegro to Macedonia, I cringed at the mountaintop chairlifts, guardrails and €12 pints. Even high in the Albanian Alps, the famous Theth–Valbona route has four cafés along its 10-mile path.

When I got back home, I took a trip to Banff—Canada’s most touristy mountain town. Day hikes there felt remote by comparison. Only a few other hikers and I exchanged nods on the way to the top of Mount Rundle, a five-minute drive from downtown.

I pushed myself hard. I carried what I needed. I felt relieved, in tune with the world.

The experts in Issue 5’s article preached the value of Indigenous-led conservation, of more frontcountry visits, and of generally not letting people do whatever they want on public land.

Those changes can’t come soon enough.

But when I think about being on top of a mountain in Banff, not a coffee shop in sight, the last thing I want is, as Buhay put it, to feel “more hemmed in, more regulated, more manicured.” Selfishly, I hope North America’s backcountry doesn’t change too much—even if I was never entitled to it in the first place.

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