Unnatural Nature

Natural Bridge Sky-lift

This weekend I enjoyed a pastoral retreat away from the urban hustle of my downtown Lexington apartment.  It was nice to get away from the concrete jungle of the city and see something besides grey and red brick buildings and black asphalt for a change.  Pulling off of Mountain Parkway near Slade, Kentucky I immediately rolled my windows down and enjoyed the fresh air of the mountains – a nice change from the stale, coal-sulfur mix I am used to around west campus.  As an avid hiker, camper and health nut, I try to frequent the Red River Gorge area as often as possible throughout the summer.  I parked my truck in the farthest lot from the main trail to the Natural Bridge attraction and began my hike.  There were several other tourists enjoying a pleasant Saturday morning as well.  Most were also hiking enthusiasts such as myself, and had no problem traversing the one mile path up the mountain side to see the attractions.  What really caught my attention once I was at the top, however, was the number of people actually using the sky-lift.

Pathway to Natural Bridge

What is most perplexing is why people would choose to use the sky-life if they are traveling to Natural Bridge on purpose to enjoy nature?  The bare, treeless path carved up the mountain side is a blight on the entire attraction in my opinion.  Is it because we are really too lazy to walk the mile-long trail or do we just want to enjoy our temporary escape to nature without having to leave behind our technology?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not exactly knocking people for wanting to ride the sky-lift.  For example elderly and small children may be better suited for riding the sky-lift or those without the cardiovascular capacity for reaching the summit of the Natural Bridge trail.  But, why go out of your way to enjoy nature only to utilize the technology we are trying to escape.  The picture to the right for example shows part of the trail that leads to Natural Bridge.  Obviously this path was improved by man and is not exactly “natural” looking.  I think this takes away from the ambiance and true character of the forest.

Devil's Gulch

What is even more paradoxical is that I was taking these pictures of my adventures with my cell phone.  Now why on Earth would I have my cell phone with me in the mountains if I am longing to escape work, and be at peace and one with nature?  The simple answer is that it is nearly impossible for me to be without communication from the civilized world for extended periods of time.  Not necessarily because I don’t desire to be, but as a business owner I must be readily available to answer questions for my clients and associates all of the time.  The down side to this is that I rarely get a vacation, so instead I get to enjoy tiny bits of solitude occasionally like the Red River Gorge.

The picture to the left shows a stairway that was built at Devil’s Gulch, in Kentucky’s Natural Bridge State Park.  Obviously this timber didn’t just happen to fall over and land like this “naturally,’ but nature was controlled by man.  I’m sure that the stairs make it easier to traverse the steep gulch, but are they really necessary?  Short of being in a wheel chair or on crutches I believe that most people could navigate the corridor with relative ease.  While I believe that we all long to be away from urban life, I find that we still want to enjoy our technology and advances while we are away.  Perhaps the stairs were just a simple solution to the complex problem of how to make attractions in the park more accessible?  After all, they are made of the same wood that grows all around and not steel or concrete.  Still to me, personally it takes away from the natural feeling of my surroundings. Perhaps the sky-lift, and the gravel path and the stairs are just there to add the “simplicity” which we desire?  As for me, I’d be fine with having to hike and climb rocks during my ascent, and if it weren’t for my pesky cell phone ringing, I just might have!

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3 thoughts on “Unnatural Nature

  1. There’s a lot of pastoral tensions in this post! The experience of nature that one consumes at any national park but especially the natural bridge in the Gorge is a great example of how we approach nature from the perspective of a cultural appreciation. The real question is, what is it about being at the top of the mountain and seeing the bridge is so important to people? Great post.

  2. I am definitely an outdoors person and I enjoy a good hike from time to time but I think what has happened is the idea of hiking has become an activity controlled by man. You drive to where you want to go hike there are many different paths to choose from and even sometimes a sky lift to expedite the process of getting to the most desirable part of the hike for most (the top). This reminds me of the time where my family took a trip to Switzerland and we were near the Alps close to the Italian border. There is a sky lift that takes you to the top(http://www.ski-zermatt.com/mattnet/pics/april2000/images/The%20spectacular%20Klein%20Matterhorn%20lift.jpg). Since we were on vacation we didn’t have time to hike it we like many other tourist took the lift to the top and walked around for awhile and hiked around the paths they had up there then simple as that we headed back down in no less than a couple hours. I think it has become a kind of worthless hiking in that you go and travel the same path someone has made and rarely go off the “beaten” path into a true “pastoral retreat”. Also the fact that the sky lift expedites the hike and the journey you make. I agree, in that I don’t believe these paths and sky lifts are necessary, but it is just the way things have been developed along with the development of cities. Specifically for people who live in the city and make the trip out and want to see the place but do not want to make the time commitment. This is very similar to the post that I am going to post about my time of memorial weekend down out on the lake.

  3. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to say that I’ve really enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. In any case I will be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again very soon!

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