The very existence of a sacred place is extraordinary. A dirty secret you know like a mistress you’ve had and held long before your wife first sparkled an eye in your direction. The look that she gives you that makes your knees sway. Her smell so intoxicating it builds a choking lump in your throat. That shimmer of glacial pool and a shore that lacks bipedal evidence. That unwrinkled and unsullied slice of perfection of a perfect blue eye. You get so used to the static beauty in a place like this. Our mortal coils shrink and wrinkle far faster than we wish, but these seductive places are lucky to escape decay in our short tenure among the breathing.
Thievery and contempt wrap my tongue on occasion. When I see pictures of a sacred place posted to an online outlet with a full description and location. When I see a picture that remains worldless in lettered description, yet the thousand words in the picture do far more than 140 characters ever could. Ridgelines, landmarks, terrain features. Dead give aways that will always end up with a puck in your own net. A lack of respect for something you fall in love with – that is what hurts me most when I see these sacred places sold out like celebrity nudes to TMZ.
Any person that isn’t a dimwit and has powerful feelings to find such a place can narrow it down in minutes, thanks to the poster’s unfettered sense of self-worth and lack of thought to what they’re exposing. Congratulations, you just fucked up something you thought was special and unique. You thought your selfie was gonna give you cred, but nope.. You just got Jagr’d. And now everyone who thought you were respectable and trustworthy finds a giant slug of contempt shot into their hearts.
I don’t write this for the people who know the Rules of the Spot. I don’t intend this to be for hunters and anglers alone. I’m just rehashing some things in writing that should have been written down a long, long time ago. It is our fault for being so human as to trust one another with these secrets, so why not spell it out so we all can own up to it? If you’re a new hunter or angler, or someone who just enjoys searching out the things not in the guidebook, unlisted on the trail map or spoken about in hushed tones – I’m doing you a huge fucking favor, so pay attention.
A new wave of people are out exploring the wild west on their own and bless them for it. The more people that find things they love in the wilderness the more people we have to protect them. It’s a double edged sword, as some places are sacred but threatened through development, greed, take your pick on the issue. And some of those places need to be touted and exposed for the ego destroying and insignificant human thoughts that they produce. These places are few and far between, and you will know them. And in those cases, loving them to death through promotion is one of the most effective tools we have to save them, though they may not be as whole nor will they produce the same fruit when the political gambit and media gong show are done with them. If the campaign to save them is successful the trees may be pruned but they will remain to produce fruit again. The simple fact that they remain, that they are there for us to visit, makes taking the luster off the shine palatable. These places may be public land but there are secrets and initiations that are central to their presence and vitality that we must swear upon.
To the fawn eyed outdoors crowd of nubiles and the weekend warriors who may not be conscious of what they tread upon just yet: I welcome you. You are the people that don’t fit in the traditional outdoors person pegs but identify with the outdoors and modern culture far easier and integrally than any of us traditionally labeled pegs can. You are the voices who will protect the most because you are the majority. I applaud the weekend explorer, the once a year sweat hiker, the chariots on which the torch of sacred places will be carried.
But some folks need to learn a few things. You may have found that hot spring or fishing hole by doing due diligence at Google Earth Guide School, and by God I have done this many times myself, but try not to give the damn thing away for nothing if you do in fact find it. Discretion is our weapon, and passivist hosts of the secret need not apply.
This piece is written for the hot spring sex pots, Travel-My-State
promoters thieves, money bloggers and media out to make money and a name. Hey I don’t blame you, but fuck you with the instruments of all of the dirtiest demons from below if you sell out the majesty of these places and rob the true seekers of self adventure and discovery so you can get a few “likes” and maybe some free gear. Damn you to Golgotha if you prey upon other people’s boot leather to make a living. You can afford it, do it yourself. Then maybe you’ll be reluctant to destroy it through your BuzzFeed listicle. Go ahead and seek these places but do not sell the ephemeral experiences of multifaceted discovery into junk bonds for those who may not yet know of where you tread.
You know that friend who tells you the entire plot of a movie or show before you watch it?
Do you know how much you hate that son of a bitch for ruining the initial emotions for you? The cliffs, the deserts, the oasis tucked away? The suspense of the film and story line, the “What’s over the hill or around the next bend syndrome.” Don’t give them pills, crumbs, or an overarching sense of the greater narrative.
Don’t be one of them. The SPOILER ALERT people.
When you take a landscape portrait of a pretty spot in the boonies, when you describe your settings in the photo, and when you’re that god dammed waste of human that GEOTAGS it, you are the Spoiler Alert friend. You are a thief to our senses, a child who screams the answer before the question.
It’s not just a movie you’re ruining for someone who somehow is still your friend cause you’re an asshole.
You’re contributing to the ruin of an entire place and it’s charms. At the least you’re robbing a friend of the great experience you just had. At the most you could be ruining the fragile environment of a place, tampering with the entire ecosystem from a comfortable distance. There’s no delete button for that.
So here is my list of rules I’ve learned from both sides of this coin. I’ve trespassed and been trespassed upon. This isn’t about promotion, it’s about taking a public ownership. It’s on all of us to maintain the sanctity of what is ours.
The Rules of the Spot
- The Golden Standard – If someone takes you to one of their special spots – a fishing hole, a hot spring, a chukar spot, an elk spot – for whatever activity or purpose, You Do Not Go There WITHOUT The person who showed you, unless they told you it’s ok to do so without them. I learned this the hard way when I was an arrogant kid. I’ve lost friendships, partnerships, and jobs over this. On both sides of the coin.
- The Stripper Rule – Feel free to share, just don’t give it all away. We all get stoked when we expend our muscles and energy to find something in rumour, or even better something completely unexpected. Take your memories, your photos, your journals. But do not give that treasure away nor let it be stolen. You are robbing the thieves when you do this, which is somewhere in the 3.14 Pi radians of the Circles of Hell.
- Curiosity Killed the Sacred (And made it profane) – While I have been guilty of having said too much after having too many, I try to make outsider’s polite inquisitions as vague as possible. Example A: At a watering hole, you are approached by someone who looks like a chukar hunter. He or she asks you “So where do you go bird hunting?” The mind races for a moment, the geographic ego wishing to be stroked through the hippocampus receptors. But no, you will not give away the countless hours, boot soles, the Sweat Equity and dollars you spent gaining the knowledge they seek. “Well, I usually head north.” “North? Like Gerlach?” “Yup, I just head north. It’s always a good time.”
- Don’t Cheat the Process – The missteps, misfortunes and triumphs of discovery are what make our time spent in the outdoors so precious. The SPOILER ALERT friend is not who you want to be. You’re cheating people out of the fundamental purpose of exploration. Discovering things unfettered is one of our last great privileges of the west.
- Sharing is Caring – If you have a trusted close friend who asks you about your experiences in a sacred place, you may feel obliged to share a little of the information. Do not sell out the plot or the punchline. Nor should you oversell the potential outcome. A finger on a map and a corner lipped smile will suffice. These kinds of friends should be able to be counted on a Simpson’s hand.
These steps may sound and seem rather draconian. I’ve had many “Oh fuck you” and “You’re an asshole” comments thrown my way for being what most would perceive less than helpful. But do not be swayed.
You earned these sacred spots. The amount of pleasure you get from toiling fruitlessly for miles and then stumbling upon whatever it is you seek cannot be quantified with a monetary value or your targeted number of social media likes that fills that black hole inside. If the spot was shared with you by someone who undoubtedly trusts you (or is a complete idiot), you now own not only a responsibility to the sacred nature of the spot, but also the trust that someone put in you to keep it that way.
The maps of our planet were drawn, detailed, and honed long before any of us were capable of wondering about the tiny overlooked places that all of us cherish. They will all be gone one day no matter what we do, as our impermanence only gives us a short window to seek out, discover and enjoy these places. The seeking is where the magic lies. In a world that is increasingly cleansing itself of magical feeling, let’s do our part to ensure discovery internal and geographic remains potent for as long as we draw breath. Forget the GPS or where you left it. Remember that Google Earth is the great equalizer.
You wouldn’t pull your panties off on prom night, so why sacrifice something much more grandiose and fleshly eternal?
Chastised excitement has always been the measuring rod. Don’t put your pounds into grams for a few pennies. Expect the work you put in and don’t sell it short.
Now, where’s your chukar spot?