Why I Love Wilderness

By Dan Heinz

How do I articulate passions, which have driven me my entire life from boyhood adventures, to the US Forest Service as my career choice, and then on to conservation jobs and volunteerism throughout retirement? 53 years so far. All I can do is assure you my feelings for wild places are everything the word “passion” evokes. I believe it was Leopold who said that some people can live without wild places, and some cannot, I for one cannot. Beyond that, neither can I sit by and let any wild country, wilderness or not, roaded or not, be degraded.

My parents were great hikers and introduced my brother and me to long walks and climbs in the Pikes Peak area. There were great hikes to be had right from the last bus stop west in Colorado Springs. The end of World War Two meant we could have a car and surplus gear was affordable. We moved on to backpacking.

I am sure my adolescence was one of the most painful ever suffered. (As I am sure each of you do too). It became profoundly important for me to escape for an overnight with a buddy or two whenever possible. The stresses of growing up would vanish on those over-nights.

By high school my buddies and I got into fishing and soon found there were no fish anywhere you could drive. Hunting soon captured our imaginations, and the best is where you have to walk. Nobody knows where the best hunting and fishing is like a Ranger. My career destination became clear - the US Forest Service.

With maturity I have found time in wilderness spiritual and essential for well being. Something best experienced alone. The very essence of wilderness for me is complete dependence on myself. No society providing me with safety, or support of any kind. For me, more than one companion, or a cell phone precludes anything like a wilderness experience and reduces an outing to a nice walk in the woods. (Well, It may be OK to bring along an ass or two).

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