Over Tourism in Wild Places

adventure of the week, Caribbean, colorado, europe, Florida, United Kingdom, United States, wyoming

While we had started the day as one of maybe three or four boats in the canal system doing tours, numbers quickly increased about an hour and a half into the tour. Not only did the additional boats make the canal more crowded, but larger groups of snorkelers, with what seemed like less instruction, swarmed the area. To add insult to injury, a large group of kayakers also flooded the scene trying to catch a glimpse of the now frightened young manatee.

We were snorkeling with manatees in Crystal River, Florida in what had been established as a nature preserve among the outskirts of the city. We had showed up at 6:30 a.m. so we could truly enjoy the animals at a calm and less-crowded time. We were lucky until 9:00 a.m. when the crowds arrived.

My group was instructed to return to our boat at this time, trying to allow others to see the animal, which we had been lucky enough to encounter, but back on the ship we saw the problems with popularity.

Much like the rest of tourism sites the world over, manatees and other wildlife encounters are having a moment in the limelight, that also means that areas get overused. While our selected tour company has been working for decades to create a more sustainable experience, even pairing with the University of Florida to restore sea grass in the canals due to climate change, they can’t control the populations of tourists that come into the area. While most companies will limit sizes of groups, a lot do not, and that means more money for the company, but not the best situation for the animals or natural areas.

While manatees and their habitats are cared for and many of the springs have been closed in the past, there often isn’t a way to monitor or control the use in an area in times that are open to the public. Even the boat captain informed us that when other canals close to public use more people descend on Crystal River and other areas for things like kayaking, snorkeling, and paddle boarding. This makes already operating tours more crowded, and the animals are more consistently with people.

Florida is not alone in their wild tourism boom. Many National Parks in the United States, State Parks, reserves, and other areas of the world are feeling overwhelmed with tourism. The animals that rely on natural areas are no doubt losing habitat and safe areas to exist. We lose wetlands and hidden areas for animals to escape into. While traveling opens our eyes to so much, are we also killing that which we love?

As humans we have developed around 75-80% of the land in the world, with a large portion of that happening in the last century. Blame overpopulation of humans, and development, and consumerism. All of those things have tipped the scales. In the last 50 years or so travel has began to greatly impact the story as well.

My grandparents would lament trips to Yellowstone in the 1970s and how crowded it was. Today they would be shocked that the 2.5 million visitors they were part of then have swelled to over 4.1 million annually since 2015. On one hand it’s great that more and more people are in love with the wild open and stunning landscapes that lucky people have known and loved since childhood, on the other hand, the droves have a negative impact on the landscape. Sometimes it is misinformed tourists “rescuing” a baby bison, other times it is litter that kills animals who eat it, sometimes the amount of people alone are the problem.

As in so much of what I write, and my actions, I attempt to be mindful of what my actions and words do to those places and people around me. In caring for the natural world I love, I think it’s important to acknowledge my own negative impact in the environment. I love visiting wild places and animals in a way to better appreciate and love the world I live in, but my existence changes the landscape. However, I know there are ways to help.

  • Go in the off or shoulder seasons – I despise heavy crowds at Disney, the beach, and anywhere else. Living next to Rocky Mountain National Park, I avoid the park from May to October because of the swarms of tourists that are in the area. I follow this practice elsewhere, and I make a heavy effort only to visit places when numbers are lower. This decreases the day to day pressure of areas, city or wild, to make it better for every living thing.
  • Research companies and their values – For any animal or wild tour I do a lot of research before selecting a company. This is rooted in concern for animal welfare and concern for the environment. For example, when we went dog sledding, I selected a company that adopts dogs for their tourism work, and then finds home for the dogs when they retire. All the dogs we met were well fed, happy, and totally goofy. However amazing the experience was, their welfare was absolutely vital for our selection. I have also learned bag things about companies and will not visit them again after a visit, such as the Cayman Turtle Farm. Mistakes will happen, learn from them, vow to do better.
  • Talk to experts, read work from experts – Signs in National Parks are there for YOUR safety as much as for the animals. Listen to rangers and experts when they tell you not to leave toothpaste in your tent, or to stay on the trails. There is method to the madness and it keeps things nice for everyone else.
  • Vow to Fight Animal Cruelty – do your research on this, and ask a lot of questions. While it may seem like dolphins are happy with swimming excursions in a pool, the truth is that the industry is soaked in blood (I don’t say that jokingly). Elephants are a prime example, and there is a lot of debate on what are acceptable versus cruel interactions. You won’t be perfect at this, just ask questions, do research, try to understand the complexities.

Happy Travels!

Winter Hiking

adventure of the week, colorado, Colorado Events, Travel

I have lived in Colorado and until last week I had never been hiking in winter. At least not in the traditional hiking meaning of the word. Sure I had trekked through knee high snow to feed animals or to clean off our deck. Sure I had braved snow and ice to walk a dog down gravel roads. Yet, I had never been on a hiking trail in winter.

I had not even meant for it to be a winter hike. I had actually planned on everything to be pretty dry and easy going. Maybe home to a few snow patches. Yet as I journeyed into higher elevations at Rocky Mountain National Park, I saw snow, and more snow, and ice, and wind, and snow pack.

It was soon I realized at around 8,000 feet that I would be hiking in the snow if I chose to go. I hesitated some, worried about my clumsy nature on ice. Yet, being stupid, or stubborn, or both, I pushed forward with my hiking plans.

Luckily I had packed extra layers and I was wearing my thick athletic leggings. I had well- treaded hiking shoes, and thick socks. I put on my layers, made sure my pack was good, and off I went.

The trail proved to be somewhat snowy, but easy to trek. The blowing wind and ice from the trees made the journey cold but manageable, and if anything the floating ice crystals added a majestic charm I did not expect.

The wonders of nature hit me, even in the cold, birds hoped between trees, chipmunks scavenged in bushes, and the pine, mud, and earth released their elegant perfumes.

I crunched along uphill for a mile before the Bierstadt Lake trail plateaued by the lake. It was here that the muddy trail turned into a wondrous winter land, where the sun played gleefully through pines and aspens. The wind made the fallen trees, the victims of strong winds, had leaned into each other creaking and echoing a haunting tune.

The lake walk loop offered a two mile winter walk that offered solitude and relaxation, a chance to think, dream, and feel grateful to my home by the mountains.

While I enjoyed just walking, I found that winter hiking was a much needed discovery compared to my summer and fall excursions. It was nice to have the stillness and solitude away from the summer crowds. It was glorious to feel a freedom only deep-seated trails offer. It was refreshing to breath in the scents of an ancient land, untamed and wild.

So, if you are thinking of a winter hike. Do it. Just be smart. Take warm clothes, gloves, hat, jacket, boots. Take water and matches. Take a solar lamp if you can. And bring an emergency device to try to reach help (cell phone). Tell people where you are going. And try to visit a trail that others are likely to be on. If you can, take a buddy, if you can’t, make sure several people know where you are going and when you should be back.

Happy Travels!

True Colors of the Colorado Rockies

colorado, Colorado Events, outdoors, Photography, Travel

It’s no doubt that the Rockies offer a lot of gold in their autumnal splendor. “Gold in them there hills” is a common refrain as aspens gild the mountain sides in mid to late September. I love the aspens, and their splendid colors are some of my earliest memories. Yet, when you go a little further afield you see a new landscape of colors, flora, and stunning colors that are often missed to “leafers” in Colorado.

Colorado offers a wide variety of plant life that glows in reds, oranges, and yellows during the autumn. While we lack the vivid diversity of the east coast for leaves, we make up for it in unique coloration and stunning mountains as a platter. It is hidden in back roads and dirt lanes that fall can be truly found.

Last week we took to the Old Fall River road in Rocky Mountain National Park. The journey winds from around 8,000 to about 12,000ft above sea level offering a feast for the eyes and senses. We drove before sunrise to beat everyone up there and it did not disappoint. Birds and animals ran freely without a care for tourists. The golden dawn provided a guiding light as it played joyfully on the mountain crevices. It was well worth leaving the house it 5:30 a.m.

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Of course RMNP is not the only place to find these wonders. In fact the state is full of hidden gems in the mountains. My advice, to feel truly amazed by the autumn beauties, is to go somewhere new, get up early, and ask locals what is the best view. I also suggest planning to explore things you may not otherwise such as Alpine valleys, and ridges that are home to some of the most delicate but intriguing plant-life on the planet. Many of these gold and red beauties have taken decades if not hundreds of years to make it to today.

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Happy Travels!

More Reading:

RMNP

Fern Lake

Camping RMNP

Emerald Lake – RMNP

adventure of the week, colorado, Environment, Nebraska, Travel

Another Adventure of the Week for your Saturday reading and another one in the endless nature and beauty of Rocky Mountain National Park!

I went with a co-worker and my step-daughter to hike the trail that is a total of around 3 miles in and back again. This is a far more busy trail than others in the park, and even starting at 5:00 a.m. meant there was a fair amount of people upon our arrival at 7:00 a.m.


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How lucky we are to live in #Colorado #rmnp #rockymountainnationalpark #emeraldlaketrail #mountains #adventure #hike #wild

A post shared by Rebecca Lee Robinson (@beccaleephoto) on While I was surprised at the amount of people, it did not take away from the beauty of the hike, and it was exciting to see so many out-of-towners, including a family from Germany. There is real value in getting to live in such a beautiful place and getting to share it with others.

The trail is unique in that it is lined by elegant little lakes creating a pleasant and beautiful view from just about every spot on the trail. In addition to the lakes there are great cliff and rock faces that allow for stunning views of the area. One can easily see for miles and truly take in the majestic wonders of alpine regions.

If you are looking for a good mid-range hike that is easy to accomplish in 2-3 hours, this is a great option for family groups and those note used to the altitude.


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sunshine and the #mountains will always bring me joy. #rockymountainnationalpark #rmnp #emeraldlake #colo #foco #coloradowoman #travel #getoutandplay #explore #womantraveler #travelblogger

A post shared by Rebecca Lee Robinson (@beccaleephoto) on For those seeking animals, I ran into numerous critters along the way, mostly birds, and a very friendly chipmunk. This is a great trail for kids to explore nature and work on animal identification.

Of course the whole point of the trail is the lakes, and boy do they impress!

Nymph:

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Dream:

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Emerald:

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HAPPY TRAVELS!

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Fern Lake Trail RMNP

adventure of the week, colorado, outdoors, Travel, United States

I have been trying to enjoy as much of Rocky Mountain National Park this year as possible. I went to visit twice in July hiking the Cub Lake Loop and last week I did the Fern Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park.

The trail is home to a fantastic variety of river views, wildlife, and some stunning falls. The end of the trail ends at one of the best lakes in the National Park! The area also has the benefit of minimal people if you start early and maybe on a rainy day. This should also improve as the summer months wind down.

Check out some of my shots from the day:

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Fern Lake Trail Falls

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Make sure with any of the longer trails in RMNP that you wear good hiking shoes, bring plenty of water, and use the bathroom (or latrine) when you have a chance. Also, bring a phone or some other emergency device, tell people where you are going, and bring matches just in case. Most of all, be safe.

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