Nature With or Without People

Kanaraville Falls, Southern Utah

Photographer standing in the desert.
Desert Solitude

Which do you prefer, communing quietly with nature by yourself and maybe one or two other people or do you like a bigger group of friends with music, noise and a lot of social interaction?

A few months ago I returned to Kanarra Creek, one of my favorite waterfall/slot canyon areas, and was shocked by the sheer number of hikers squeezed into every nook and cranny of the canyon.  My wife and I went to visit Zion National Park over Spring Break and again, I was shocked at the number of hikers we encountered, hundreds cued up to board busses for the shuttle ride.

This got me thinking about the “nature” experience whether or not I can enjoy visiting National Parks anymore.

I like to listen to the sounds of nature like birds chirping, cicadas buzzing, the wind blowing through the treetops and the rustle of dry vegetation as an animal brushes against. I can’t hear these sounds if the animals are scared away and the noise of people yelling,  laughing, and singing overwhelm the sound receptors in my head.  I like to witness and feel what nature is like with me as a quiet participant sharing space with all of god’s creatures without the overwhelming influence of the human being.

But this is only one kind of nature experience for me. When I think about it long and hard, I have to admit that I enjoy camping with a group of friends, sharing campfire-cooked meals, beverages, and marshmallows roasted on a stick. This is a uniquely human social experience. There is some kind of special bond that develops between people who “rough it” together in a natural setting.  This is all about sharing experiences with other people and is not really about sharing with other creatures unless you count squirrels, blue jays, and the occasional bear that roams through your campsite.  I have all kinds of fond memories of camping with large groups.

I think the disappointment I felt when visiting Kanarra Creek was because the previous visit was full of solitude so I expected that and when did not experience it again I was let down by my own expectations.  I now realize that if I want solitude in Zion, I will have to plan a visit in winter when the park is not crowded or hike on trails that are less congested like The Subway or Kolob Arch.

All is not lost…I just need to plan better for the kind of experience I wish to have.


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