I mean, not entirely. Three whole days off work and the chance for more than just a 1-night camping trip? Yes, please!
But what I do hate about 3-day weekends is that everyone else loves them, too. And while I think it’s great that so many people are getting out into nature and exploring, the 3-day weekend crowd seems to consist of a lot of people who only venture out on 3-day weekends and, as a result, really aren’t well-versed in proper behavior when out in nature.
I know, I know… there are always people out and about who demonstrate a general lack of common sense and respect for our planet. But it’s definitely worse on 3-day weekends.
Case in point… my family and spent this recent Labor Day weekend in Rocky Mountain National Park and here’s the short list of things we witnessed:
- People setting off on a lengthy hike in the mountains with only a water bottle
- People setting off on a lengthy hike in the mountains without so much as a water bottle
- People on rocky trails in flip flops and many other types of inappropriate footwear
- People walking off trail, including up in the tundra where they were trampling the fragile plants
- Parents who let their children run all around the campground… including right through our campsite, multiple times, without so much as a reprimand
- A little girl walking up to within about 7 feet of a deer (thankfully it ran away rather than hurting her)
- A lady feeding a squirrel
- An admittedly adorable marmot who was clearly used to being fed… and multiple people pretending to feed him just so he’d come closer and they could get a great photo. In the few minutes we were in the area, he clawed 3 of these people, bit 1, and attempted to steal food out of a backpack
- Multiple people who thought this whole marmot debacle was hilarious
- And, last but by no means least, our campground neighbors who (1) left beer bottles and dishes out overnight in bear country, (2) gathered firewood in a national park, and (3) set a giant log on fire outside the fire pit and then LEFT IT BURNING and walked away. Fortunately, a park ranger drove by as the log was smoldering and presented them with what I assume was a pretty hefty fine
All of this in 3 days.
Now, I’m not writing this post to be an outdoor snob. I understand that some of the people we saw were probably new to this whole outdoors thing. Maybe they haven’t yet experienced that moment we all inevitably have that reiterates the importance of being prepared for a long hike. Maybe they can’t afford hiking boots or other outdoor gear. Maybe they’ve never been to the mountains before and didn’t know what to expect. Everyone is facing their own collection of life circumstances and I’m not trying to be judgmental about that.
It’s the other stuff that really bothers me.
Because paying attention to your kids and not letting them run around in other people’s space is just common courtesy. Also, there are literally hundreds of signs asking people not to approach or feed animals. There are multiple signs explaining the fragility of the tundra and asking people to stay on trails. Rangers talk with every single person during campground check-in about the importance of not leaving food and dishes out.
We’ve spent nearly every weekend in the mountains since we arrived in Colorado earlier this summer and I can say, without a doubt, this was the first time we’ve encountered so many people who are apparently incapable of reading signs or following rules or having any type of common sense. And it’s these people, more than anything else, that cause the types of problems that end up impacting all the rest of us.
I don’t know what the best solution to this is. But I do know that I’m going to start being more aware of what I post online, because unbridled posting of outdoors photos on the internet is certainly contributing to the epidemic of unprepared and disrespectful people who are now venturing out into the wilderness. There’s a big Leave No Trace (LNT) movement going around on social media right now and I’m going to do my best of be a part of it. I’m going to be more selective about what I post. I’m going to make sure to emphasize appropriate outdoors behavior and to spend more time talking about LNT principles. I’m going to make sure I don’t ever post anything that demonstrates or condones improper behaviors.
I know I’m just one person, but I want our wild places to be protected. I want our wild animals to stay wild. So I’m vowing to do my part as we work towards the goal of educating everyone on how to keep our planet wild and beautiful.