The time we spent in California’s national parks was the most time we’ve ever spent enjoying the outdoors together. It was a wonderful change to spending our time in bustling cities, and we found that we loved hiking and exploring together. The American national park service is wonderful. They offer lots of in depth information and very successfully make these parks accessible to everyone, while still maintaining the wild and untouched nature of the parks. Unfortunately there are always people who feel that they can ignore the guidelines put in place to keep themselves and the park safe. We saw this multiple times in California, we’ve seen it here in Australia and we see it happening around the world in news reports. The people engaging in these dangerous and often illegal activities are ignoring our responsibility as traveller’s to do no harm in the places we visit.
When we were in Sequoia national park we saw the biggest tree in the world, the General Sherman tree. The national park service have provided a walkway to allow people to view this huge and ancient tree without damaging its shallow root system. But while we were there one couple decided to jump over the fence and get a picture hugging the tree. It’s so sad that getting the perfect Instagram photo is more important than preserving these natural beauties for generations to come. Worse than this were the carvings covering the tree. It’s difficult to understand how someone could visit Sequoia and think that the park could be somehow improved by having their name scrawled everywhere.
Respecting our environment is also important for protecting ourselves. When we underestimate our environment we fail to prepare for the potential dangers that we can encounter in the wild. It’s important to respect the fact that enjoying nature comes with its own risks. When you enter bear country you seal your food, when you visit the desert you stay hydrated, when you swim in the sea you stay weary of the tides. Recently four young Canadian men risked their lives by stepping off the boardwalk at a hot spring in Yellowstone national park. They posted videos of their activities online and a warrant has subsequently been issued for their arrest. They got off lucky-last week a man died after falling in to a hot spring in the park. So many deaths (of both people and animals) have occurred around the world in national parks and other wilderness areas that could have been easily prevented by following the rules. These rules may be restrictive, and I admit that a part of me also wanted a picture hugging the biggest tree in the world. But I believe it’s important to acknowledge that travelling comes with responsibilities. Because how can we justify travelling the world if we’re going to leave a wave of destruction behind us?