Friday, December 15, 2006

Supported Touring

At this moment I can overhear a couple of people discussing operations in Maine by an organization I won't name, offering supported camp-to-camp ski tours.

Logistical problems pile up like foam in a shaken soda. Snowmobile users demand their shot at any trail. The customers require a certain level of indulgence to get them to come out at all. As with so many guided outdoor adventures, self reliance is the first casualty. It just becomes another energy-consuming, pollution spreading, peace-and-quiet-destroying human carnival. The organization in question has always expressed the hope that a significant percentage of the people who insist at first on being coddled will mature into self-reliant explorers and environmental advocates.

This is why I bushwhack. Choose terrain no one can cross with a machine, with a sketchy trail or none at all, and you have half a chance at some privacy and fresh tracks. This applies whether we have snow or not, because ATVs need a clear space and a manageable slope, too.

Of course the machine heads keep pushing the envelope, forcing the fanciers of quiet self-propulsion onto dicier and dicier terrain. Eventually you end up clinging to a cliff, bombarded by the echoing sounds of engines you can't escape.

We have some time before that happens. It's a race between humanity's self-indulgent deficit spending and the absolute limit imposed by finite resources. In the grand scheme, sag-wagon ski tours of the backwoods of Maine probably do a tiny bit more good than harm.

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