A while back I was with a group of hikers on a trek through the Black Creek Wilderness in Southeast Mississippi. To set the tone for a trek through an officially designated wilderness area, I asked them two questions, “What does the word wilderness mean?” and, “What images do you associate with the idea of wilderness?”
They mostly defined wilderness as an area untouched or undeveloped by humans – a place that is protected from human influence.
Some said that wilderness brings to mind Indiana Jones hacking his way through impenetrable jungle in search of a lost civilization.
Some said it brought to mind pioneers on the Oregon Trail trekking over infinite planes covered with waist-tall grass, like the ill-fated Donner-Reed party of 1846.
Some said that it suggested floating in a dugout canoe on a mosquito-infested river through the Amazon rainforest, like the Roosevelt-Rondon expedition down the River of Doubt.
The hikers didn’t bring it up at that moment, but to me, wilderness can also suggest stubbornly curious Norwegian explorers floating on a raft across the Pacific Ocean, or French scientists in SCUBA gear plumbing the depths of the ocean, or even American astronauts reaching toward Luna and Mars.
The story of wilderness is the story of man. Man not only has a craving for wilderness, but I think he has a psychological and moral need to see what the universe would be like without him.
So, what does the idea of wilderness mean to you? Leave me a comment or come find the Roaming Parkers Group on Facebook and let’s talk about it.