Sunday, September 17, 2000
Ever have the feeling, as you're packing your Petzel, camping stove, gourmet jerky and R.E.I.'s single-shot espresso pot for campers, that you're taking just a few too many creature comforts to distract you from the wildness that you are presumably seeking during your outdoor venture? Ever scan the dual-suspension, titanium-framed, mountain-biking passers-by at Spring Creek on a Saturday afternoon and wonder when it became common for outdoor recreation, Steamboat-style, to include a $2,000 bike, a $75 water "bladder," $50 shoes, a $50 helmet and hundreds of dollars of high-tech clothing?
I hate to single out any individual or organization for an internal contradiction of which so many well-to-do Rocky Mountain Americans are guilty, including myself, but the Lake Catamount development illustrates the point.
I don't necessarily object to the development at Lake Catamount. In fact, a bit of visionary planning is nicely demonstrative of creative ways to live in and around conservation easements. But let's get one thing straight.
Catamount Ranch and Club prides itself in its name. One fact sheet provided to interested buyers and club members reads:
Cat.a.mount: n 1: cougar 2: The folk name for a mountain lion or "cat of the mountains." They are reclusive, and prefer wilderness to civilization.
Anyone any living thing that claims to prefer wilderness to civilization can hardly demonstrate such a belief by purchasing a near-million-dollar, 2,800-square-foot "cabin" on a lake equipped with an outfitter's club, an 18-hole golf course and a lake replete with sailing boats, canoes, skiing boats, fly-fishing guides and a myriad of other recreational activities.
Especially in these parts, it seems to be increasingly popular to "prefer wilderness to civilization," because some of the philosophy of our culture is evolving to include an enthusiastic appreciation for the intrinsic value of the natural, wild world. But we do that wild world a great disservice, and demonstrate nothing short of a total disrespect for what wildness and wilderness really mean, when we claim to scorn certain aspects of our civilized world with which many of us, in reality, cannot live without.
If it's what makes life enjoyable and worth living, there may be nothing wrong with spending a day hiking and returning home to an air-conditioned kitchen filled with bananas from Brazil and California sauvignon blanc. But let's not talk the talk and call ourselves catamounts; let's not presume to prefer wilderness to civilization unless we're really willing to walk the walk.