Friday, June 8, 2012

21st Century Backcountry

Is nothing sacred?

I recently returned from a trip to South America. I spent most of my 2 months in Bolivia, the poorest and most remote country on the continent. I was fortunate enough to go on a hike that took me over 75 kilometers in the Cordillera Real, one of Bolivia's most impressive Andean mountain ranges. I passed through a handful of traditional villages, where people tend llamas and pigs and practice subsistence living. The area has no road access, no power lines and very few facilities of any kind. I had no guide, no GPS, and only a basic grasp of the language.

On the second day of the hike, after seeing a couple of farmers and a handful of simple dwellings, I passed by an isolated homestead perched on a steep cliff.  To my surprise, a man walked out of the house with a cell phone in his hand. He explained that he had bought it from a fellow during his last trip to La Paz, a few weeks back. But now, he couldn't figure out how to activate it. He wondered if I could provide a solution. I couldn't.

This experience solidified the fact that no matter how far off the beaten track you go, technology will find you.

What's next?

How about Street View Trekker, Google's newest expansion of the Google Earth empire. Now, you will be able to navigate through some of the worlds most remote backcountry areas online by viewing photos that have been taken from specially designed equipment attached to hikers' backpacks.

So, what to make of this apparent conflict between modern technology and remote wilderness? 

I love it. 

I think its great that a man living in one of the most remote regions of the world can phone his family on a Sunday afternoon (if he can find a sim card that works). Can you imagine how exciting that would be for him? 

I love the idea that a doctor in London can open Google Earth and "trek" the North Coast Trail from his desktop. This might remind him about a nearly forgotten love of the outdoors and maybe even cause him to take his children on a local hike. And that could create a whole new generation of trekkers and nature lovers. In fact, this is the reason that we developed a Virtual Hike of Cape Scott Park and the North Coast Trail.

What are your thoughts? How does technology affect backcountry recreation and how will it change your next hike?



1 comment:

  1. Just as long as folks still go out and experience the real thing themselves!