Dear Crabby,

Recently, my family and I decided to go up to Boulder Cave to enjoy a little hike, see the cave and generally enjoy the nice weather.

It was a particularly busy weekend, but that’s great! So many families out enjoying nature!

What made my husband and me very crabby was that despite the NUMEROUS signs asking people to stay on the designated paths and to not climb up on the rocks by the cave and to keep quiet near cave, there were people everywhere doing all of these things — even parents taking pictures of their kids doing these things mere feet from the signs asking them not to.

Why in the world can’t people respect the ecosystem and have the common courtesy to follow the rules? They are in place to protect the site and the animals that call it home. I’m just waiting for them to close the site year round (it’s closed in winter to protect the bats) because people can’t be decent.


Just Read the Signs

Dear Just Read,

I don’t want to paint with too broad a brush here, but I think it’s safe to say all people everywhere are selfish, solipsistic and generally awful. Every one of us. We’re the worst.

That means that despite your “nom de complaint,” just reading the signs isn’t likely to discourage the inconsiderate behavior.

I hiked to Sheep Lake near Chinook Pass last weekend, and — despite the sign that very clearly prohibited camping within 100 feet of the lake — there were a couple of tents set up right on the water. A hundred feet away would still have been a lakefront campsite for all practical purposes. But this dumb family of jerks decided they’d rather be 98 feet closer, rules and ecosystem be damned.

The problem is that everyone thinks, “Well, I’m just one more person; I’m not doing much harm.” And they’re not technically wrong.

Did this one family irreparably harm Sheep Lake by pitching tents right on top of it? Probably not, just as any single group of kids noisily tramping through Boulder Cave probably isn’t going to irreparably harm that beautiful little treasure. But both sites are popular enough that those things really add up. And taken in the aggregate they cause real harm. (Look up the Forest Service’s page about Boulder Cave to learn about the threat fungus-caused white-nose syndrome poses to bats and how easily it’s spread by humans visiting the cave.)

Fortunately, if you view this from a broader perspective — like, really broad; galactically broad — it doesn’t much matter. Yes, as a species we’re accelerating the end of the world. But the sun’s only got about (let’s see, today is a Thursday, so ... ) 5 billion years of hydrogen left to burn anyway. Once the earth is enveloped in post-apocalyptic winter and spinning unmoored across the vast expanse of space, only the staunchest of environmentalists will still care about the health and beauty of our natural landscape. See? Doesn’t matter.

That’s a joke. It matters very much. I’m just sort of defeatist about it. And if I’m honest, I’m part of the problem. I could have approached that family at Sheep Lake and engaged them in a friendly conversation in an attempt to get them to follow the rules.

I worried that would make me look like a hall monitor of the forest or something. But those people (and the ones at Boulder Cave) obviously care about the outdoors, or they wouldn’t be there. They don’t care about the signs, but a little person-to-person conversation might go a long way. If we really want positive change, those of us who care need to raise our voices.

Hope that helps.



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