Last Friday, I woke up at 5 am to prepare myself for a day of conquering nature like an American; like a man. At 6, I was picked up by my friend, Cole, in his grey Jeep Grand Cherokee. At 7:45, we arrived at the base of Mt Washington (elevation: 5,100 ft.). Our goal was to walk up the snow covered mountain, then snowboard down. Other activities on my agenda were: get a tan, exercise, and catch a buzz. I’ve been big into Jersey Shore lately (great indie film series on an independent network, MTV. Ever heard of it?). After this hike, all I had to do was a little laundry to fulfill my duties as a lighter skinned (long since sun-burnt), less muscular transplant (GTL).
We walked. It hurt. Then, we walked some more, and it hurt even more. I had not been hitting up the gym, and the Gods were not pleased. I brought my Bluetooth speaker, just so I could drown out the annoying noises of Nature with deep house music while I beat that beat up like my mentor and idol, DJ Pauly D. After about 2 hours of walking, we made it to a base lodge at a flat spot in the mountain. My calves were looking great. At the base, there was a mass of people, many with dogs. Dogs are man’s best friend, just in-case you didn’t know. From that base lodge, we did some more walking toward the summt, and ended up at a second stopping point. This second point was the bottom of the natural ski-bowl known as Tuckerman Ravine. The last leg of the trip was to climb this steep incline for about 1,900 feet. Once you climb to the top of that, you get to ride down on your snowboard.
Tuckerman Ravine is part of a National Forest, which means that it’s maintained by a group of government contracted park rangers. While I appreciate the forests and all they have to offer, I know that the reasons behind making and maintaining these pristine, plasticized forests are not as benevolent as harmless recreation and appreciation of the “natural” world. These forests (land) are claimed by the government, and used as tourist destinations in order to stimulate the surrounding economy. In addition, they promote Nature (with a capital “N”), with their well maintained trails and ease-of-access parking lots. In promoting a Nature that exists solely because of a romanticized ideology, the USFS, Morton might say, is doing ecology a disservice.
All around me, all day, were people buying into the illusion of adventure; like they were playing Lewis and Clark. Some went as far as to have cramp-on’s on their boots, hiking poles in their hands, camelbaks on their backs, and those silly zip off pants on their legs. Yes, I think these items are excessive for this particular hike, but that’s not to say I blame them. Nice gear makes the hike easier. However, the expensive gear creates an illusion of adventure. It makes them feel like bona fide hikers. The use of expensive gear further promotes the de-naturalization of nature. Hiking while severely unprepared is the most organic and “natural” way to do it. Forget your shoes? Great! No sunscreen? Better tan.
We penetrated and conquered Nature that day, and we know exactly what we did. We didn’t fool ourselves into thinking we were expeditioners or mountaineers. This is where my problem with Morton’s “Nature” lies: not everyone is so naive as to believe that a hiking trail is natural, or that nature is kind and forgiving. Even on the polished trail, we got leg cramps- we didn’t stand a chance. Even in the sanctioned ski bowl, there was a strict timeline on when you could actually be there. If you stay up on the hill after the sun goes behind the mountain, you might just die. It gets incredibly cold and windy, the once friendly snow turns to solid ice, and you have no visibility. If the path of friendly, fluffy “Nature” leads to this frostbitten wasteland in a matter of a few uninformed mistakes, then Morton’s “Nature“, to me, is a myth. Catch me fist-pumping in the woods.