Taking the Measure of Solitude in the Wilderness

People are drawn to wilderness areas for many reasons, hiking, bird watching, or camping, but another attraction is solitude.

If you’re hiking in southwest Virginia’s Mountain Lake Robbie Harris you may meet a ranger who is actually measuring the amount of solitude out there.

David Seisel, who goes by the name ‘Skip’ is a ranger on the eastern divide ranger district of the George Washington National Forest. “I partner with the Forest Service. I work for a nonprofit. It’s called SAWS and it stands for “Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards.”

“Part of what I’m doing today with this trash bag and shovel in my hand, is going out and trying to hike user trash out of the trail and disperse fire rings that have been established too close to the trail.”

“There’s a rule, more or less, that you’re only allowed 10 people within a designated wilderness to make sure that we don’t have high amounts of users or that these larger groups aren’t disturbing the solitude for others on the wilderness areas.”

It’s actually a performance management system like you’d find at many companies. Only it tracks a set of 20 different wilderness metrics like air quality, fish and wildlife, and other conditions that confirm its wild nature.

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