Back in the mid-80s I was canoeing an uncanoeable (is that a word?) river in Utah. I pulled my canoe for two days while walking in the water. The next day I found small channels where I could almost canoe for five minutes at a clip, and finally on the fourth day I could canoe the river canyon while stopping for day hikes to explore the side canyons. On one such exploration, I went looking for petroglyphs and cowboy glyphs but noticed a sign at the top of the canyon. I was miles from the nearest paved road, dirt road, or two-track so the sign peaked my curiosity. I climbed up and up and walked the canyon rim back to the sign, and the picture above is what I saw. I imagined Edward Abbey and his characters Hayduke and Seldom Seen having a good laugh at the sign they posted. I still haven’t told fucking anybody about that place.

A certain Utah writer began listing these “secret” places in his guidebooks, and it was the early to mid-80s when I first learned about White Pockets, The Subway, and other spots which are well known by photographers today. For years I thought sharing was a good thing, but given today’s vandalism and those once idyllic spots overrun by the Instagram hordes I’m rethinking location sharing. These places need a rest. Near where I live, the Columbia River Gorge was burned by humans and much has been closed for the past two years. It’s marketed as “Portland’s Playground,” but that’s part of the problem. It’s not a playground, it’s the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness. It’s “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” I subscribe to the Wilderness Act, and I’m thinking this year is a good time to keep quiet about some of the places I visit and offering only general information to those who inquire. And those on social media that ask nothing but, “Where is this?” Will not get a response from me.

Part of me feels guilty for not sharing, because it’s something I’ve done and part of the purpose of the Photo Cascadia Team is to “explore areas of natural beauty, encourage stewardship and conservation and offer inspiration by sharing our images, our stories, and our knowledge with other photographers who share our passion.” It’s a bit of a conundrum for me and makes me sad, but until we’re better stewards of the land and its flora and fauna, I think it’s time for me to stay mum.

What do you think about this subject? I look forward to reading your comments below.

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