O/B’s answer to outdoor offenders.
I harbor limited faith in self-governance. Nothing underscores this more than my wish for Apple to equip computers with email breathalyzers. Many mornings-after might have been prevented by this, leading me to conclude that we can’t always be counted on to do the right thing when left unchecked. Sometimes sanctioned repercussions bear consideration. Those, for example, who pine-beetle the fundamental precepts of outdoor etiquette, staining the backcountry experience for others, deserve avengement. An eye for an eye, as it were—a form of modern-day pillory. But so as to avoid charges of being too restrictive, only the most egregious outdoor violations demand repercussions. Here are a few.
These are the people who react to cairns on trails in the same horrified manner vegetarians react to bacon bits in salads. Aghast, they kick them over as if releasing years of pent-up frustration born from failing to knock down those weighted milk bottles at county fairs. When questioned, they defend their behavior with all the righteousness of Environmental Studies majors on Earth Day. “They’re manmade creations,” they explain, “compromising the integrity of wilderness.” They might have a point if the cairns were constructed from popsicle sticks or Lincoln Logs, but they’re made from rocks. Indigenous to the trail. As conspicuous as chipmunks in Yellowstone. The cairns serve a valuable purpose, especially above treeline when trails often become guesses. The intent is to make people appreciate the outdoors, not fear it.
Punishment: No backcountry access until completing 200 hours of community service working as a campground host at the Butte KOA. The sentence may be reduced to 150 hours upon proof of tweeting 1,000 times “Just because cairns go against my outdoor code I will not kick them over."
Imagine sitting down for dinner at the Second Street Bistro in Livingston. A waitress delivers a plate full of deliciousness. Your mouth salivates in anticipation. But just as you lift your dinner fork, suddenly, without warning, a giant wooden oar swooshes down from the ceiling, arcing across the main dining room, causing diners to scatter under tables, before disappearing. Though the oar missed you, you’re spooked, thinking, “Good God, where did it come from?” No longer feeling safe you flee the restaurant leaving behind your meal and appetite. This is the frustration waders experience when drift boaters dip their oars when passing. Regardless of intention, it spooks the trout. Consequently, a pool that maybe took the wader all morning to reach now has zero action.
Punishment: For a period of three months, perpetrators will be allowed to fish, but only from the shores of Bozeman Pond’s Canine Beach using a bobber and worms. Upon completion, river-floating privileges will be restored but only from a pool noodle.
There are many hikers who believe switchbacks only exist to make them late for something. They then cut the trail, sparing them of least 13 seconds of valuable time that can be more productively spent adding likes to Facebook posts. Cutting switchbacks—or what some call alpine jaywalking—kills vegetation, loosens soil, and ultimately creates erosion.
Punishment: Required to run through a gauntlet of liquored-up Gallatin Valley Land Trust employees and volunteers armed with knotty sticks.
Jeff Wozer works as a nationally touring stand-up comedian while operating from a secluded mountain perch. More of his musings can be found at jeffwozer.com.