Hiking: Scenes from a double life

by Ezra Buckley on May 15, 2017

We just want it to be clear that no human being will feel safe in nature. We don’t believe in coyotes, wolves, beings, nor anything like that. But we are those who will not hesitate to take aim and fire on any human being who steps on the little semi-virgin nature that still exists. So from here on out we warn that no little event like those organized by the “Ghost Mountain,” visits to the “Bat Forest,” hikes, humanist events, and stupid “primitivist skills” training will be tolerated. No person is welcome in nature, it would be best if they don’t just don’t bother coming and stay in their accursed cities.

-29th Communique of ITS / GITS

I want to live in the woods with predators. I don’t want to be the most dangerous animal in the woods when I go into them. I like knowing that there is a bigger predator out there, one that belongs and fits in a healthy ecosystem. I hate the idea of bucolic nature, tamed of all threats. That’s the Invader’s view, not mine.

-Rod Coronado, “The Resilience of the Wild: Talking and Stalking Wolves with Rod Coronado.” Black and Green Review no. 1. (Spring 2015), page 108

When I walk in the woods, I try to be aware as much as possible. But in the back of my mind, I know that I am in a safe space. In fact, I even tell my children at times that the place where I am most nervous with them is the suburban strip mall parking lot. This is the most unnatural place a human can conceive of, which is why waiting in it is probably the most anxiety-causing thing imaginable. However, the real problem is cars backing out, which is one of the more notable circumstances for car accidents. Children, being small, could easily be run over by a driver not paying attention to what’s behind them. Compared to the forest here, the most that they would encounter is a snake or stepping on an ant hill. If they are really lucky, they may encounter an alligator sunning itself by the side of a bayou or a pond. But alligators are usually shy and would flee into the water if someone encounters them.

Ironically, in wilderness out West, even in places that seem far more developed, walking in nature could potentially be a more dangerous proposition. When I lived in the mountains of central California, I was always afraid of encountering a mountain lion, especially when someone said they had seen one on a certain morning outside of where I was staying. I remember I was staying in another place, and had to go for a walk very early in the morning in the pitch dark, and I was desperately afraid of encountering a mountain lion or a bear. Wild pigs were also a concern. In the desert, it was stray dogs I was most afraid of, and I carried a stick. A rattle snake could be easily avoided: unlike in swampy pine forest, there is little grass in the desert for them to hide in. The most I saw was a small bobcat and a rather emaciated coyote. Seeing me hardly broke its stride and it wandered on.

I also saw less menacing things. Deer are abundant in parts out West where their being hunted is strictly regulated where not outright forbidden. Walking in Robinson Jeffers country, specifically Point Lobos, I came within six feet of a deer, standing face to face. It looked at me and was not afraid. For weeks in one of the places I was staying at mentioned above, a family of deer would pass every afternoon about five o’clock: a doe and about three fawns. One morning, I woke up to find a handsome buck with prominent antlers run over down the hill. The sight of it broke my heart.

There were other encounters, and no doubt there will be more. But I am beginning to realize that these epiphanies of the Wild God of the world are manifested within a Babylonian Captivity, a short but tragic age when one animal, Man, has decided that it will dominate all others and that all other animals will serve it as long as their existence is found to have some benefit. For example, alligators in this area almost went extinct early last century. Bears, wolves, panthers, and bison once roamed these woods. No doubt, the large chorus of birds was one a full orchestra not too long ago. The forests here are now open air mausoleums, and starkly quiet compared to when a full symphony of animals added their measures of music. And they have been made this way for and by Man. I have already commented how my homeland in California has changed beyond recognition.

I state all of this because I have been asked recently to reflect on the idea of wilderness. For me, there is really no such thing. “Nature” exists entirely at man’s discretion. Read a book like Deerland: America’s Hunt for Ecological Balance and the Essence of Wildness, and you realize that even the wild and awe-inspiring deer is merely a product of civilization: a population that is permitted to roam and is harvested according to strict government quotas. Indeed, the way some people hunt deer, using deer corn and hunting stands to shoot them since deer can’t look up, smacks more of a slaughter than a hunt. There is even a whole procedure one must follow if you hit a deer with your car (which is a very common accident in parts of the United States.) Parts of the South, while overflowing with trees, are still harvested from time to time according to a certain timetable. There’s alligator season, deer season, duck season, etc. etc. Considering the number of guns in this part of the world, and the enthusiasm of some to use them against comparatively defenseless animals, the only thing stopping these creatures from going extinct is the State. Enough animals, ones the government was less enthusiastic to protect, have gone extinct to support this hypothesis.

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