Roads Rivers and Trails

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Monthly Archives: September 2022

Tragedy of the Commons

I was at the shop working a Saturday shift about a month ago. Sometimes we get busy and our back-of-house spaces miss out on the care we provide to the public spaces. One of those areas is our staff kitchen, specifically the fridge. I noticed the state it was in— random juices stuck to the shelves, unidentifiable items in the freezer. It was what you might call a tragedy of the commons, a space that everyone has the freedom to use but people lack the responsibility to care for. An example of the phrase, “Not my problem.”

Pike's Peak is a common space that should be cared for by all

Pike’s Peak, CO is a common space to be enjoyed and cared for by all.

It’s a scenario that plays out all over our cities, our wild spaces, and this planet. We often lack the feeling of ownership that could improve a whole lot of things. You see a pile of trash on the curb that blows down the street; you watch people hike down the trail and step over the fallen branch instead of dragging it to the side and improving the path for everyone. You, the passerby, didn’t cause these problems, others did, but what are you doing to solve them? Do you say to yourself, “This isn’t my space, this isn’t my problem?” Do you think, “Someone else will come along and take care of this?”

When you walk through the backcountry and stumble across a campsite with trash in the firepit and beer cans in the bushes, what do you do? When you see garbage piled up at the trailhead, do you leave it there or do you haul a bag out? I can’t tell you the number of cans and bottles I’ve hauled out of Red River Gorge, the collective bags of garbage I’ve picked up in Clifton. I’m not here to brag, I’m here to share a thought. What if we all treated the world around us with care and attention? What if we acted instead of making excuses or thinking ourselves out of making a difference?

Trail work is a way to give back to wild spaces

Trail work, such as this in Red River Gorge, KY, is a way to give back to wild spaces.

We talk about Leave No Trace, we talk about stewardship of our outdoor spaces, and we have conversations about the increasing number of people recreating on our public lands. We should also talk about how we give people a sense of ownership in both the places they recreate and the public spaces we inhabit. It’s a tough thing to do. You cannot teach ownership; you cannot teach people to care. It must grow naturally.


I take people backpacking, kayaking, and climbing in the wilderness. After they see magnificent views and take a dip in crystal-clear water, they come back to the frontcountry relaxed, refreshed, and happy. We often find ourselves in this conversation. They start to think about how they can care for the space they are in. They have a sense of ownership.

If everyone took inspiration from the vast green forests, rushing rivers, or rocky alpine landscapes they find themselves in, we might make a collective difference in how we think. If each of us picked up a few pieces of trash and switched a few things about the way we live and what we consume, we’d have a chance to keep this little blue dot a beautiful place.

A trash free beach is a rare example where the tragedy of the commons doesn't prevail.

A trash free beach is a rare example where the tragedy of the commons doesn’t prevail.

Next time you go outside, think about your impact— the positives you provide and the negatives you create. Think about how you would want a space to look if it was your responsibility. At the end of the day, it is. Together we’re responsible for the way our world goes. If enough of us accept responsibility and take action, this’ll be a pretty good rock to live on in this big ol’ universe.


by: Ben Shaw


The Big Three on the AT

When backpacking, whether it be one night or one hundred, the Big Three can make or break your trip. The big three entails a hiker’s tent, sleep system (sleeping bag and pad), and their backpack.  

Here is a brief rundown of the Big Three for my 2022 Southbound (SOBO) thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail:

The tent is central to the big three, so choosing the right one is important.


 I’m carrying Big Agnes’ Fly Creek HV1. Fully packed, this tent weighs about 21 oz. While it may not be the most spacious tent, my plan is to use this tent sparingly and take advantage of shelters along the trail. My tent will be a backup if the shelters are filled up when I arrive at camp or if I want to spread out from the crowds.


Sleep System:

Quilt: For this hike I am using Enlightened Equipment’s Enigma 20 degree quilt. This weighs 21 oz as well. I went with a warmer quilt because summer nights up north can still get pretty chilly and I will be going through the southernmost states in the late fall/early winter. I can use this quilt the entire duration of the AT without having to switch it out for something else. 


Sleeping Pad: My sleeping pad of choice is the classic Nemo Tensor Insulated, which I am sure many of you are familiar with. This weighs in at 17oz. I do not have much to say about the Tensor that has not been said before. It is a great sleeping pad and widely used among backpackers. As with my quilt, the insulated model of the Tensor allows me to use it the entire time I am on the trail without getting too cold…. Hopefully. 



Picking my backpack was probably one of the toughest gear choices I had to make during my preparation. I was curious to explore hiking with an ultralight pack, but I like the versatility and weight capacity of internal frame packs. I have always backpacked with Osprey packs and really liked them, so when I saw the updated Osprey Exos it was a no-brainer. They say you pack your fears, and for some odd reason my fear is running out of room. I went with the 58 liter option for more space; it weighs in at 2.6 lbs. 

The Big Agnes Fly Creek is ultralight, a great way to knock weight off of your big three.

Check back later in my hike to see how my choices hold up after a few thousand miles of walking. Did I make the right decisions, or will I be wishing I had saved a few ounces?


by: Dalton Spurlin