A few weeks ago I “liked” a photo of a waterfall on Instagram. Considering who it was, I suspected it was near Red River Gorge. The photo didn’t have any hashtags indicating the location, so I asked where it was in a comment. Later that day, the user sent me a private message with the location.
While that was the first time that’s happened to me, I’ve noticed a similar trend on Instagram (and elsewhere); various users have posted photos of sites near the gorge that I know well, but there are no hints or captions indicating the location. Mind you, many of these people simply don’t want to take the time to #Hashtag #AllTheHashtags, but I have a suspicion a number of them intentionally leave the photos ambiguous, perhaps to avoid having these destinations overrun with #InstaFamous tourists. This thought was reinforced by a recent Adventure Rider Radio RAW Podcast I listened to on a similar topic.
With regard to tourists “ruining” travel destinations, The Tail of the Dragon comes to mind. While I only recently started riding to that part of Tennessee, long-term motorcyclists tell me that US-129 was a hidden gem up until the 90s. Today “The Dragon” can be downright congested on a Saturday afternoon; packed full of squids, baggers, passenger cars, and the occasional (illegal) eighteen-wheeler, the road is probably far less dangerous than the traffic created by exposure. I suppose one could say that I’m also “that tourist”; every fall, I make the pilgrimage to “The Gap”, and undoubtedly share a photo of the notorious road at some point that week.
On a similar note, the Daniel Boone Backcountry Byway has also received similar “attention” in recent years. Launched publicly in 2016, the trail conditions on “the Byway” are a far cry from what they were 3 years ago. I managed to finish the DBBB last fall on the Scrambler; a feat that would be significantly more difficult today considering the evolution of the terrain. Now, I’ll be the first to admit, 2018 was the wettest year on record in Kentucky; that situation played a significant role in the damage to the trail. However, I question the “tread-lightly” message from the off-road community when folks are rolling 30 Jeeps deep on a Saturday, but we’ll talk more about that another day.
Part of me gets it. Bennett’s Publical is my local watering hole of choice; with an eclectic menu, PBR for $3, and several rotating craft beer taps, it’s a place you should never go. I say that because I’m selfish and love the fact that the owner knows me by name and while it’s crowded on Friday and Saturday nights, it seldom gets so busy I can’t find a seat. Let’s not be ridiculous, you should absolutely go there (tell them I sent you). As much as I want my favorite pub to remain the hidden gem of South Dayton, that’s a pipe dream. Folks should enjoy a place in its heyday and appreciate it at its best instead of lamenting about what it was or what they wanted it to be.
I should probably apply that logic to my go-to routes in the Bluegrass State. While Fincastle Road now pushes the limits of what I feel comfortable doing on the Scrambler, I brought home a 250 Dual-Sport for a reason. Ultimately that’s kind of how I feel about the sharing of information with regard to trails and sightseeing. While I don’t necessarily agree, I can understand an argument for a destination that’s hidden in plain sight that becomes overrun or closed because of disrespectful tourists. However, on the other hand, when destinations like Big Sinking Creek are revealed to the masses, I suspect few are willing to make the journey, let alone traverse the challenges necessary to see the majestic view.
Obviously, private property is a different story. On a few occasions, I’ve commented on photos to discover that a given location is on private property. That’s understandable, I don’t want strangers wandering around the “family farm” in Kentucky without expressed permission either. However, if something is already public on Google Maps and so on, I don’t have a lot of heartburn about sharing information with like-minded adventurers. Hence, the Red River Scramble routes are still public (they are of course public roads).
What do you think, should we in the “adventure” community be more private about our favorite destinations, or are they places people will discover on their own anyway?