It’s bittersweet: more and more people are heading out into the back country. Not just skiing and splitboarding, but hiking, too.
It’s sweet because connecting with nature is a marvelous thing. It makes people healthier (both physically and mentally) and, in theory at least, it causes people to care just a little more about our planet.
It’s bitter for a few reasons.
On a superficial level, it plain old sucks when your favourite spots because crowded, when you can’t find parking near a trail head on a weekend, and when your fellow hikers insist on taking in the views through the screens of their phones rather than through their own eyeballs. (Check out this CBC article: Is social media ruining hiking in B.C.?) Yup, it sucks, but we’ll get over it.
More importantly, it’s bitter because so many of the people heading outside are dumb. Maybe dumb is the wrong word — maybe ignorant is better. They’re ignorant about how to interact with nature, leaving garbage behind and disturbing flora and fauna. They’re ignorant about how to prepare for the outdoors, bringing inadequate supplies and wearing inappropriate gear. They’re ignorant because they don’t think anything bad will happen to them. And if something does, no biggie — whip out a cell phone and dispatch the local Search and Rescue.
(Don’t even get me started on that. Oh wait — too late.)
I get it. We all have to start somewhere. I’m not an expert outdoorswoman, nor do I think you have to be to one enjoy the outdoors. But people spending time in the outdoors have a responsibility to educate themselves, to do their research, and to learn how to play outside without endangering themselves and (more importantly) others.
Last weekend, I put my money where my mouth was and attended an introductory wilderness first aid course with Canada West Mountain School. My goal was to gain confidence in tackling emergency wilderness situations on my own, without relying on the crutch that is my paramedic boyfriend.
I didn’t become an expert over the two days of the course, but I did come out with a better sense of the risks involved in playing outdoors, how to use the tools found in my first aid kit and around me, and how not to be dead weight in the case of an emergency. Think about it — would you know what to do if your hiking partner snapped her ankle six hours into a hike, out of cell service? If you happened upon an unconscious trail runner in the mountains? If your trip leader slipped and fell off a 20 foot ridge?
If not, maybe it’s time to brush up on your first aid skills. While you’re at it, make sure you’re always bringing the Ten Essentials with you on your trips. Do your research, do your planning, and know your limits.
Oh, and you — you in the cotton plaid shirt and the faux vintage booties and the felt floppy hat — you may have a pretty Instagram feed, but you look like a turd.