Desert Solitaire

I really enjoyed reading this book. The combination of narratives, rants, and contemplative well -thought-out ideas kept me entertained and intrigued.

Industrial Tourism and the National Parks

This chapter captured my attention and frustrated me the most. I spend a lot of time in national parks and wilderness areas and value the privilege to “get lost, sunburnt, stranded, drowned, eaten by bears, buried alive under avalanches”. The idea of developing national parks instead of preserving them is in, in my opinion, in direct contrast to their purpose. I spent a long weekend backpacking trip in Shenandoah National Park last fall and watched, just as Abbey described, the many tourists that drive through the park, wave at the scenery and every so often stop at one of the pull-offs to take a picture out their car window. When did we become to busy/important/lazy to walk? Wilderness is not about comfort, ease or safety and if you are experiencing any of these you probably aren’t actually experiencing nature. I will stop there in relaying all of my frustrations though I could go on. Instead I want to share an example of a major national park that exists without roads.

I took these three photos this summer while visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia. This park is made up of a series of lakes and waterfalls and is the country’s most well known and most visited national park. Even with the large influx of tourists that flow in and out of this place every year, Croatia has done an impressive job of preserving the area. You drive and park at one of the two main parking lots or at your hotel of choice all located on the mountains above the lakes. You are then shuttled down to the trails and you then have to chose a hiking trail that fits the amount of time and difficulty you want. There is also a small ferry at one point that takes you across the largest of 16 lakes. The rest of the time, though, you are walking on set trails and wooden walkways (shown above). The national park was absolutely beautiful and we walked around for about 7 hours just taking it all in. Also everyone there got to experience it. POINT: The idea of a national park without roads really isn’t that radical and is definitely worth looking into.

pg7- The personification of nature.I like that he openly admits that we all personify nature and he strives to suppress the tendency to do so. It is impossible to describe anything without incorporating human qualities/ideas because every description comes from us as humans and explains how we relate to these objects, organisms, ideas. Admitting to this though and striving to not just romanticize and humanize nature I think leaves a person more open to see nature in and of itself.

pg. 15 I like when he talks about the use of his flashlight and how “like many other mechanical gadgets it tends to separate a man from the world around him”. Tools are one of man’s great accomplishment but Abbey makes a very good point: when we start interacting with nature indirectly, through the use of tools, we start to weaken our relationship with nature. Later on Abbey talks about loneliness in his home and how he relieves that by getting outside, by sticking his toes in the sand, and by feeling that connection with the larger world (pg121). I think we could all use a little more time with our toes in the sand, our hands in the dirt, realizing that connection with nature and experiencing it fully. The flashlight in the dark would allow him to see all the details of one small area in front of him. In doing so though, he is cut off from everything else. Sometimes it is much more important to be involved, to take in the whole picture instead of just all a chaos of details.

This also relates to his condemnation of cars. They are little metal bubbles that provide security and transportation but what are they protecting us from? (experience) and what are they transporting us through? (who knows, we often drive too quickly to see the view anyhow). I very much agree with Abbey in that without having that direct contact with nature, we cannot fully appreciate or understand or develop a relationship with it.

pg35 “It is undoubtedly a desert place, clean, pure, totally useless; quite unprofitable.” thankfully unprofitable enough that we haven’t been able to use it up and destroy it yet.

pg45 “If Delicate Arch has any significance it lies, I will venture, in the power of the odd and unexpected to startle the senses and surprise the mind out of their ruts of habit, to compel us into a reawakened awareness of the wonderful- that which is full of wonder.” and pg162. Abbey brings up the point that we need the idea of wilderness even if we never venture out into it. The wilderness provides a possibility of escape. I mention these as two reasons why wilderness in the form of these grand national parks is important. I agree with him that wilderness has an intrinsic value that we need to preserve (for our own good). Relating this to “The Trouble With Wilderness” article that we read last week, if people could look deeper into the nature around them they could benefit more frequently from this ‘sense of wonder’ and ‘reawakening of the mind’.

p127 The Indians were “unburdened by the necessity of devoting most of their lives to the production, distribution, sale and servicing of labor-saving machinery…”. I found the irony and truth in this statement comical.

pg 305 “I was not opposed to mankind but only to man-centeredness..” Our problems with nature all begin with this mindset that so many of us (all of us?) share.

pg 331 “Balance, that’s the secret. Moderate extremism. The best of both worlds.”

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