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Chris Ahearn on Our Racist President on Walking in the Woods
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Chris Ahearn on Nature Journals
Chris Ahearn on My Mountains




Man-Made Machines

On Fourth of July weekend, we took my nephew on his first backpacking trip. Maybe it was presumptuous of me to think we would be getting away from the world for a few days on a holiday weekend, but I thought we would have some solitude since we would be on the trail. Unfortunately, we were not the only ones that thought of going to the mountains for the long, holiday weekend. The trail crosses several dirt roads where people with trailers often camp. While we did not see any other hikers on the trail, we did see some campers pursuing other recreational activities. And these activities were, in my opinion, disruptive to the nature experience.
As hikers, we gain enjoyment through solitude in a vast expanse of nature. The feeling that you are the only person within miles can bring us peace when, on a normal day, we are surrounded by people. Getting away from people, and the things created by people, reminds us that the world does not revolve around us. Our human lives are just one small part of the intricate happenings on this vast earth. We realize this when we go out into the woods by ourselves or with our families.
Unfortunately, as much as we love our solitude, we also love our man-made machines. From flash lights and camp stoves, to guns and dirt bikes, we bring machines with us to the woods in search of solitude. This weekend, as we were hiking, we heard gun shots from some campers at a target practice and we saw someone on a dirt bike which we could hear for miles before hand. These things were loud and ruined our perception that we were miles from civilization communing with nature. But as I started thinking about it, I realized that we had brought machines of our own into the woods, too. We had flashlights and a propane camp stove we used to maintain our comfort level in nature. Were these things as disruptive to the creatures that make the woods their home as dirt bikes and guns shots were to us? They were probably, not as disruptive, but a little bit, nonetheless.
As humans we create machines to change our environment, but doesn’t bringing them with us defeat the purpose of “getting away.” Aren’t we trying to get away from people and all our machines? We could see the pine trees and breathe the clean air, but when we heard the sounds of machines our illusion of solitude was shattered and that peaceful contentedness which we often find in nature went with it.
As we neared the end of our trip we could hear the loud speaker from a rodeo at the lodge. This was not the trip I had wanted it to be. We went ten miles into the woods, but somehow it seemed as if we never left the city at all.

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