The concept of Wilderness is a belief strongly entrenched within the American psyche. Its meaning is written in our history and our law. The interpretation of Wilderness in law is representative of a time when the western view of the wild lands of our planet switched from places that were to be conquered and tamed into lands that were to be preserved. Sometimes this was done for beauty and aesthetic reasons, and sometimes for wealth of resource. Some of us are dedicated to Wilderness, while others are just happy to know it exists. Wilderness is often a space for solitude and reflection for humans, yet it is also a place countless other species must call home.
The 74,000-acre Mount Evans Wilderness was designated in 1980 by the United States Congress, as required by the Wilderness Act of 1964. Within those boundaries lies one of Colorado’s most popular 14er hikes, Mount Bierstadt. Located just outside of Georgetown and up Guanella Pass, Mount Bierstadt is an easily accessible 14er that is frequented by thousands of outdoor enthusiasts every year. In 2013, the estimated visitation was around 35,000 people in a 3-month season. This puts 70,000 human feet making their way toward the Mt. Bierstadt summit. This statistic presents a problematic question: is Mount Bierstadt truly a wilderness, representative of the untrammeled expanses of free country? Or is it symbolic for our need to keep up with the human imprint?
We are working on Bierstadt this year to mitigate the damage on the summit trail incurred by overuse. From check steps to water bars, rock steps to barrier walls, we are engaged in making sustainable structures on Bierstadt to protect this wealth of land outside of Denver. This summer we have already achieved some incredibly rewarding work with Wildlands Restoration Volunteers, and we look forward to working with Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado.
It is imperative for humans to interact with nature, whether that means hiking in the woods, staring at the night sky, or summiting a 14er. It takes all of us to balance that imperative for future life to come.
Love the mud and stay on the trail.