This past summer, I spent a chunk of my time in [REDACTED]. It’s a beautiful but alarmingly small town on the West Coast. The locals celebrate its size and boast of the 64 permanent residents in the winter season when tourism has died down. The most interesting thing about it, however, is probably the stickers you see adorning every reusable water bottle, bike rack, sketchbook or car bumper: “[REDACTED] Sucks! Tell Your Friends!”
Think of this place as the Voldemort of towns. “The town that shall not be named.” Inhabitants and visitors alike are advised to tell no one of its existence, let alone its name, regardless of how breathtaking it may be. I mean, it’s no secret that the West Coast has some of the most picturesque mountains, rivers and starry nights. But is that reason enough to gatekeep what it has to offer?
This town answers with a resounding yes. The small population means that the environment has time to heal after a busy summer season, that the land will remain unattractive to wealthy developers and that it won’t become the next Jackson Hole, WY, a mountain paradise for the wealthy that was once a hidden gem for climbers and skiers alike.
We’re already seeing the impact of developing what was once a rarely unknown area in Sun Valley, Idaho. What was once a secret ski haven for the best of the best is becoming a mountain town for the U.S. elite and now has a median home listing price of almost $1 million. Even more, the housing market is trending up around 11% every single year.
As a guide for Georgetown’s Outdoor Education organization, I have learned to treat nature with respect. In pedagogical terms, the practice is called “Leave No Trace.” There are seven main principles:
- Plan and prepare
- Walk on durable surfaces
- Dispose of waste
- Take only pictures, and leave only footprints
- Use designated fire sites
- Be respectful of wildlife
- Have friendly trail etiquette
Essentially, leaving no trace means leaving no impact on the natural environment. One of the largest problems facing conservationists today is the dichotomy between disruptive outdoor recreation and restoration efforts. As stated in a majority of Outdoor Education excursions, we must be respectful of nature not merely for our sake, but for the sake of others, so that they may partake in the abundance of outdoor spaces as well.
[REDACTED] is most certainly a town that appreciates Leave No Trace (LNT), and the residents try to incorporate it into their daily routine in almost every way possible. Whether it be biking to and from work, drinking everything out of a Nalgene or sleeping in tents or cars for the entire summer, they care deeply about [REDACTED]. And they want you to care too.
How can you care? Don’t go there. Simple. If no one talks about [REDACTED], visits [REDACTED] or posts about [REDACTED], then [REDACTED] won’t fall victim to multi-million dollar housing development, experience overexploitation of the natural resources or have residents that fail to practice LNT in a meaningful way.
Ideally, everyone would be able to go there. I want you to go there. But if the summer tourists to [REDACTED] cannot follow LNT, as the visitors of Jackson Hole and Sun Valley so expertly demonstrate, then how can I justify sharing [REDACTED]. I can’t.
In fact, never mind. It’s not beautiful. It’s boring. There’s nothing to even do. I don’t even know why you’d want to go. Genuinely. [REDACTED] sucks. Tell your friends!