Be a Voice
This post is going to be a little off the wall, so bear with me. Now that I have your attention with a photo of the stunningly beautiful Chapel of the Holy Cross, I'll eventually get to my point. Obviously I hike alone quite often. I don't think that's news to anyone. I like to hike alone, enjoy the solitude, and if no one is available to hike with me, I'm not going to let that stop me from going. Let's face it, not a lot of people are usually available random weeknights when I'm driving around the state for work. And I don't like to miss out on opportunities to see cool places. But, but, but aren't you scared? What if you get hurt? What if you see a bear? Have you heard about Meredith Emerson (Google if you're curious)? Yes, I have thought about all these things. I literally get paid to do a job involving safety and risk, so it's not foreign to my personal life either.
But on the other hand, very rare criminal behavior aside (in no diminishing what happened to Meredith), outdoor mishaps are often related to human error. Not bringing enough water, not dressing appropriately for the weather, going off trail and getting lost, etc. I've definitely made some dumb mistakes while hiking but I've only felt my life was in danger once while hiking and that was a very long time ago in Italy (Dolomites, yo). A very severe thunderstorm popped up and we were on the side of an exposed mountain with literally no shelter. But even looking at the weather in advance can help avoid things like that. I have no idea if anyone looked at the weather that day. It was long before smart phones and weather apps and my grasp of Italian weather forecasting was not great.
And that brings me to my next point. Today, technology and the outdoors seem inseparably intertwined. We go outdoors to get peace, quiet, and solitude but have cell phone in hand the whole time. Sure it's convenient for taking pictures or using GPS apps (learn to use a compass also!), but it seems sometimes we're more focused on getting the perfect image for the 'Gram than anything else. I see so many pictures of hikers on social media who are engaging in risky behaviors involving guardrails, cliff faces, waterfalls, and other natural wonders. And some of those pictures have thousands of "likes". What message is this sending? This is a discussion I've been involved in with some folks in my hiking communities and we are all concerned about the dangerous behavior we see both in person on the trail and in social media posts.
The Leave No Trace Center recently added a principle regarding social media use and I think it's completely warranted. It's not outlandish either. It basically recommends not using specific geo-tags, being mindful of what your images portray, and using social media to promote responsible outdoor enjoyment. The fact that I have a hiking blog and am an ambassador for a heavily read, respected Georgia hiking websites is not lost on me. Obviously I love sharing my love for the outdoors online and I do want others to find new, exciting places to visit. But I hope to see the outdoors places I love respected and cared for. The Leave No Trace principles cover a lot of ground that both protects the environment and the people who use it, which is why I bring up LNT principles so often in my posts.
Lastly, I'd like to restate the point about being mindful of what your images "portray". With portray being the key word. We never really know what we're looking at in a photograph. A lot of photos are heavily edited. I recently learned people actually edit dog leashes out of pictures so their majestic beast can appear to be standing a top a magnificent mountain unfettered by a so not cool leash. Seriously?? I joke around about "hiker angles" (throwback to Myspace angles) and how easy it is to look like you're actually sitting on the edge of a cliff when you're really sitting on a rock 2 feet off the ground. But does the viewer know that? It's all about image. I may not be the most popular person on social media, but I hope my images portray peaceful scenery and responsible enjoyment of the outdoors.