There are a few yellowing photographs in my house, on that thick, etched photo paper that is the backdrop to my 1980s childhood memories.
The camping ones are my favourite. You can see a riverbank in one. And there’s me and my oldest brother looking glum in another, clad in layers of camping clothes in the green-and-gold flowering dining area of our family’s camper.
They evoke memories of our truck and camper clinging to the sides of mountains as we looked fearfully down the embankments from the overhead bunk. They bring back the smell of a campfire, sitting on a parent’s lap, watching a beat up kettle come to a boil over the flames.
The wire-frame camping toaster. The days spent slooshing mud around a gold pan. The propane heater. The smell of a musty camper in the first warmth of spring.
Sunburns. Marshmallows. Ghost stories. Back-road maps.
Decades later, all those memories are still there, thanks to a small collection of haphazardly-taken photographs. No other documentation was needed. And most importantly, no social media.
I am a heavy social media user to this day, as anyone who knows me can attest to. I post photos of my food, my garden, my kids, my cats, myself, and don’t make any apologies for it. I have taken a million photographs in my life, thanks to the arrival of digital photography around the time of my high school graduation. I’ll surely take a million more.
But as this camping and hiking, boating and beaching, and all-around-us discovering season gets it start, I’m going to be mindful of what I share online. There are simply too many people in the back country as it is. And honestly, too many of them are Instagrammers like me, looking for that perfect #pnw shot (that’s Pacific Northwest), with the perfect lighting and the happy, glowing gang of friends.
Some of them, usually out-of-town travellers, have died exploring areas that are locally-known to be dangerous.
Beyond the tragedy of death, there is also an increase in human-caused forest fires, an increase in garbage being left behind, and even the threat of having some well-loved Crown land being closed off to the public.
The thought of visiting an area just “for the ‘Gram” doesn’t sit well with a lot of back country users, from fishermen to hunters, from ATVers to long-time campers. Many of them launch clean-up events regularly, undoing the messes left up Harrison Lake, along Chilliwack Lake Road, and on the beaches of Jones Lake, for example. These people are here for the long haul and they want the forests to stay pristine.
So do I, and I’m sure most of you do, too.
Yes, it’s probably too late to go back to the simpler days — as they say, the horse has already left the barn. There is no more need to source out a back-road map at the local gas station. You just have to log into your social media for the GPS coordinates.
But I’ve decided I will try not to contribute to the problem anymore. That means, if we find a secret swimming hole (if there are any left to discover) I will keep it a secret. If we journey to a hot spring site, we won’t share the directions.
Don’t worry, I’ll still be Instagramming that perfectly-golden marshmallow. I’m just less likely to tell you where I roasted it.