March 11 – 19, 2018
Is Google Maps Contributing to the Demise of Our Wilderness? and Musings On the Digital Map
I have been asked by many people to share the coordinates of my hiking and camping places, and I did that a couple of times, but you know what, I don’t anymore. I’ve struggled with this one, I’ve asked myself am I being selfish by not sharing the spots and keeping them kind of secret? But over the months and even years of considering it, I’ve witnessed with my own eyes what has happened to our wild places because of (in part) Google Maps being in such a huge percentage of vehicles and peoples hands, and it’s not good.
Above – Studley Van parked in one of the few places with free camping very close to Page, AZ. Since my prior visit, a new road has been created by off-road vehicles, and the 4 tiny camping spots that used to be there are now much bigger and there are many more of them. I fear that the BLM will put a complete end to camping in this area soon, because of peoples disrespect for the land. I even found one person camped up on a mesa. This person had illegally driven off the road and straight through the desert, over plants and cryptobiotic soil, and up some rocks in order to get a view. Once this has been done, others follow, and bang goes the neighborhood, and bang goes our free camping spots.
I actually had an unlimited data plan for about 18-months (hotspot), and once I invested in a smartphone I turned on Google Maps once or twice to see what it could offer. I was astonished by the amount of data on there and realized that every place that I used to have to plead a BLM Ranger to tell me about, or had to look up in a guidebook or scour for in an atlas, was now right at my fingertips in just seconds. All I had to do was tap the screen of a place out in the middle of nowhere, and Google Maps would direct me there.
I have a serious suspicion that so many people I see out on really rough roads in a passenger car have done just that, seen a place on a tiny screen, tapped it and started driving. Some of the folks I see out in these remote places are CLEARLY totally clueless as to where they are going, what it is they are going to see, and what they are getting themselves into. I’ve overheard people complaining that there is nowhere to get water out here, well DUH!!! Google Maps doesn’t tell you everything! and people, you don’t just point a passenger car, or even a 4×4 rented SUV, straight at a huge boulder in the middle of a 4×4 road and expect it to just go over at 30 mph!!! 4×4 driving requires driving skills of a unique nature. One time I watched a car get stuck in sand, and the lady gets out in street shoes with her PURSE over her shoulder (handbag to those of you in the UK) and looks very puzzled as she scratches her head in sheer amazement, while nearby a snake slips by, under the rock awaits a scorpion, and the 4WD ONLY sign a 1/4 mile back glitters in the 90 degrees sun. These days I just get out of the way and watch the entertainment. There are always a few macho men on these roads ready to rescue a visitor in distress, especially if they are blocking the two-track and there is no way around them.
So, with the onslaught of visitors I now see on the sandy, rough, narrow, rugged, muddy, slick, rocky, and sometimes serious 4×4 back roads, I have to ask, is Google Maps to blame, at least in part?
And it’s not just Google
National Geographic Maps used to mark every Native American ruin or interesting geological feature they found on their maps, but these days they specifically request that you DO NOT, share or mark any of these places on any map of any kind, especially if it’s not a place already known about. One doesn’t have to be a genius to realize that once something is marked on a map, humans will want to go there, and they can then do it without having to do any of the research or footwork themselves. Mapping everything just exposes these areas to vandalism, theft, destruction by careless off-road drivers, naïve hikers, explorers and worse.
I’ve spoken to BLM Rangers and Paleontologists and other experts about where to find dinosaur tracks in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, and here’s what they say, “You just have to go and look for them yourself, there are no trails to most of them. But if you find some, please don’t mark it on a map.”
So hate me for it if you wish, tell me I’m being selfish, but hopefully you will come to understand that I’m doing it for the sake of the environment, of which there is so little left that has not been ruined already, and hopefully you will be very careful with whom you share your secret places.
Of course, most places I go to are already on the map, whether it be Google or some other digital map, or even a paper map. I just worry that once I expose it in a blog or video, I’ll find that instead of 20 people camping there in a season, there will be 200, and the area will be ruined and forever changed for the worse.
Until next time, bye for now, OH, and if you’re using a phone to read this keep on scrolling down and look for the MORE TO EXPLORE link which will guide you to a huge array of categories and posts from the past that include How-To’s, Tips, Travel, Tales, Philosophy, Safety, Poetry and more.
Roxy ~ A Nomad for Nature
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