Why Pretty Pictures of Nature Make Me Nervous

Lately, I’ve been feeling a little overprotective.

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Photo by Cedric

I want people to get outside, connect with nature, and enjoy themselves. I really do.

But when I see trash along the sides of trails or read stories of ill-equipped hikers using up SAR resources, I’ll admit that part of me thinks, “Just stay home, folks! You’re hurting yourselves and others. You’re hurting nature.”

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Photo by Cedric

Case in point: the River of Golden Dreams, a.k.a., Whistler’s worst-kept secret. I wasn’t actually aware that the ROGD was a “hidden” gem – I just knew it was a lot of fun, but that too many people get trashed and cause trash on the river and/or end up freezing their butts off when the Explorer 100 pops (rookie mistake – invest in the 200) and they end up stuck in water that is as cold as ice (or glaciers, if you want to get technical).

The Resort Municipality of Whistler recently released a tongue-in-cheek video inviting people to have fun on the river, but to be smart about it. I applauded this reasonable precaution.

Then – a day later – the Daily Hive Vancouver shared a photo of the river with a caption proclaiming it as a “must visit” lazy river. Hundreds of comments followed (e.g., “@friendnamehere, want to try this next weekend? It’s in Whistler!”).

Now, this would be no big deal if these new visitors a) staggered themselves so as not to overwhelm the fragile ecosystems of the river; b) followed the beloved pack-it-in-pack-it-out mentality; c) floated the river safely and soberly (or at least soberly enough to avoid making dumb decisions). Unfortunately, experience tells me that this is usually not the case.

To their credit, it looks like the Daily Hive has since removed the post (or at least I’m not able to find it). But I’m sure there were a few folks at the muni banging their heads against their desks when they saw the post.


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Photo by Cedric

It’s a little concerning that when I thought about blogging these photos from a recent hike I went on with friends, I hesitated. It’s not one of the “big” local hikes (The Chief, Black Tusk, Panorama Ridge, Wedge… do I even need to mention Joffre Lakes?) that, as evidenced by crammed parking lots and littered trails, have been discovered by the masses. I worry that if I give details about this hike, it will go the way of the Joffre – and I’ll be partially to blame.

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Photo by Cedric

This feels silly. First of all, it’s not MY hike. I don’t own the land and I didn’t build any of the trails. Second, there’s plenty written about the area online – heck, we used posts written up by other people to do our own recon. Third, have I not posted in excessive detail about other hikes before? Four, if I’m so worried about it, why post about it at all?

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I guess I just want to share Cedric’s wicked photos of our beautiful neck of the woods with the folks who read this blog (i.e., my family). I do encourage people to play outside and appreciate the beauty of the Sea to Sky – but to do so smartly, safely, and sustainably (ooh… that could be a tourism board motto!)

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Photo by Cedric

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4 thoughts on “Why Pretty Pictures of Nature Make Me Nervous

  1. I have thought about this a lot too and still have not really made up my mind on the whole thing. It is undeniable that over the last decade this place, much like Joffre Lakes has gotten much busier, but I think in a good way. When people appreciate the wilderness around them, it motivates them to protect it. Cedric’s photos from this trip are amazing, they capture the grandness of this place!

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    • I feel comfortable sharing it with my people (like my friends on Facebook) because I trust they will use it responsibly, but putting it openly on the internet feels so public. I think people/websites with bigger followings (e.g., Vancity Buzz) probably need to tread more carefully than niche sites like mine. Who knows.

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  2. I have often asked myself the same questions, not only about nature, but tourism in general. Venice, in Italy, for example, has become a ginormous tourist trap where the Venitians themselves can no longer afford to live. Tourism can indeed make us appreciate and want to protect what’s there, but then there’s the urge to move there and that means creating jobs which often leads to development and… well, you know the rest.

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    • This is what is happening in Whistler! Housing is insanely non-affordable (even rentals due to AirBnB) and they keep adding tourist activities, which are cool, but definitely not geared towards locals. Not only that, but it’s no longer an affordable destination for average people (i.e. me 5 years ago). At least Whistler was a resort town to start with, though… Venice sounds crazy.

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