SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska
Column - Commentary: Humor

Do ya feel lucky, Ecopunk?



November 02, 2018
Friday AM

Ketchikan, Alaska -
Sometimes a news headline tell you everything you need to know.

jpg  Dave Kiffer

For example: Bloggers who walked on Yellowstone hot spring die after falling from Canadian waterfall

This headline was recently in one of my old newspapers, the Casper Star-Tribune.

The gist is that a trio of thrill seekers recently died when they were swept over a 100-foot waterfall in the Canadian  Rockies. A sad, but not unusual story as people occasionally come to grief testing themselves against nature. Spoiler alert: Nature usually wins.

But, of course, there is a little more to this story. These particular thrill seekers - like every other member of their generation - believe that a life not "posted" might as well not exist. So they "blog" - or in this case  "blogged" - about their exploits. All in the name of "infotainment" or perhaps, just plain "braggadocio."

Yes, I understand that grumping about bloggers and selfieholics makes me sound like an old, old, old geezer. I plead guilty. But you do have to wonder that, if everyone is busy blogging, is anyone actually reading those blogs? It's like everyone is so busy "journaling" that no one has any time to read any one else's "journal." Right?

But as I usual, I digress.

This particular ill-fated trio had previously gotten themselves briefly detained for walking onto a Yellowstone National Park hot spring, in order to blog about what cool envelope pushers they are (were).

Natch, there is a law against walking onto those hot springs.

Primarily because they are very, very hot and if you are not careful the thin mineral crust around the hot spring will collapse and you will fall into the hot spring itself and die a horribly painful death.

Even worse someone else may get hurt trying to save you from your own stupidity. 

Now these particular bloggers survived their hot spring adventure, but were less successful with their waterfall one. And three young people - with their whole life ahead of them - end up throwing their lives away for a blog post. Sad.

The reason this rings a bell with me now is that it seems there has been a recent uptick in the Chris McCandless Sainthood Campaign and that worries me.

McCandless was the guy who went into the wilderness near Fairbanks some 20 years ago and ended up dying in a hulk of an old school bus. The bus, unfortunately, is still there and at least once a year brave rescue folks are called on to keep another idiot from dying out there, just like McCandless.

McCandless, of course, was deified in a best-selling book and a Hollywood movie. As if there is something heroic or romantic in going out into the woods and dying. Since we live here,  we are well aware that going out into the Alaska wilderness and dying requires absolutely nothing more than being extremely stupid about the Alaskan wilderness.

And yet, McCandless' story continues to inspire people to come to Alaska and do just that.

A while back, I was talking to a young man (yes, the Disciples of McCandless are generally young men, although I have met a few young women who seem to harbor the "Into the Wild" death wish. The young women usually back down when they realize that out in the woods really means out in the woods and that using moss for "personal needs" is no more pleasant than it sounds.), and he was asking if there was somewhere around Ketchikan where he can just going off into the woods and "live like that bus guy." Clearly he hadn't read the book or seen the movie otherwise he would know that the point is that McCandless didn't "live" in the end.

I thought for a minute and then advised the young man to get back on a state ferry and go south to somewhere where someone else would have to come out and rescue him.

He, of course, demurred and insisted that he would go further north to find his destiny.

Which I am certain he did. Although I haven't read about it in the search and rescue news so maybe he settled for the wilderness of one of the parks around Los Anchorage. 

I still expect to read that he was stomped by a moose because not all moose are as considerate as Bullwinkle. But now that it's late in the "going stupidly out into the wilderness season" the McCandless disciple is either working as an Anchorage barista (Big Wild Foamy Life) or is back in the Lower 48 scratching his "roughing it" urge on some warm, sandy beach.

Maybe it's because I grew up here and had more "outdoor adventures" before age 15 than most people do in a lifetime, that I am puzzled by this need to rush into wilderness long enough to take a couple of selfies and then rush back to the satellite grid and hit "send." I am certainly not bragging about those adventures. Many were of the type I would never want to replicate. Because real wilderness life tends to get in the way of our romantic notion of it. 

Unless, of course, you were raised in Cleveland or some such place. And read the McCandless story - or more likely saw the Sean Penn movie - and got all twitterpated about living the simple life. About heading back into the country, living off your wits and your own hands, forging a life out of nature just like your great-great-great-great grandpappy did.

And then, of course, the wilderness kills you.

Because that's what the wilderness does, if you give it half a chance.

And I would say that walking on hot springs, or hanging out taking selfies on waterfalls, is more than half a chance.




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Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.

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