Playing in the forest

This entry is part of my journal from Semester in the West. For all SITW journal entries, click here. For all SITW posts, including blog posts I wrote while on the program, click here. To learn more about the program, click here.

camp: Schulman Grove, Inyo National Forest, California

Sometimes I wonder about the wisdom of separation. The bristlecone in front of me would make the perfect fort, tree house or pirate ship for adventurous kids. As a child, I loved playing outside but got bored visiting national parks, where everything worth doing was fenced off. Ed Abbey didn’t learn to love the desert by reading about it on a taxpayer-funded National Forest sign.
And yet, we must preserve, so we stay on the trails. Perhaps there are simply too many of us to use the wilderness without harming it. Abbey wanted his deserts and canyonlands preserved, but not so thousands of other people could come raft down the Colorado. Even non-industrial tourism can be carried to excess. Even the most well-intentioned among us can do damage.
But I hope we never forget this, in our quest to keep ourselves separate from nature in order to save it—children need to play outside.

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