"The more you know, the less you carry" - Mors Kochanski.

October 11, 2007

A moral dilemma...

Did a little looking around youtube.com last nite. Found the episodes for Ray Mears - Country Tracks show. In the first one I watched, Ray was demonstrating how to make a pack frame from the local resources when your pack gets lost/broken.

I found this interesting for 2 reasons.

  1. I found an article describing how to build a packframe from this site a couple of days ago and had already starting working on it and,
  2. Ray was using willow branches to create the frame and the cordage from the bark.

So based on point number 2, here is the moral dilemma: So many of the bushcraft techniques that I have researched require the use of living wood. Yes, I know that a lot of things can still be made with dead wood but still, many require the stripping of bark etc. I have spent years researching, developing and testing my ultra-lite gear for distance trips and effectively used little of the local foliage, if any. In these cases I have worked hard to adhere to a "Leave no trace" practice. But in the techniques used in bushcraft... well.... not so easy!

On one side, I feel that in order for me to really practice and test out the different skills that I find, the most effective materials are living. If I want to improve my skills I need to cut/hack down (though small in quantity) living wood. Obviously it does not require cutting down a huge tree just to make a pot stand or something but still there is not much of a chance of finding fresh bark or pine roots stacked in a pile on the side of the trail just waiting for me.

On the other hand, the environmentalist/treehugger in me says that even if I just take a little bit, that there is plenty of trees/shrubs growing in the forest, is still not acceptable because if I do it then others can do it and before you know it... Whoosh! no more forests. I know that some would say that I am being a bit over the top about it but I have been to some of the campsites on the trails in Algonquin park (actually pretty much all of them come to think of it!) and I have seen how people abuse the environment there. Usually in the form of "if it looks like it will burn, Burn it!" Trees stripped of branches in a 50 foot radius around every campsite, ground cover stripped of everything burnable creating what Ray Jardin calls a "Cold Camp", and garbage and broken bottles all over the place.

So what do I do? I am always looking at the side of the roads for wood that has been recently cut down for walking sticks. (pictures of my wood carving to come in future posts) When fall and spring yard work is done in my neighborhood, I take late nite strolls to find anything I can use. I would love to practice bushcraft techniques that allow me to live comfortably in the forest using the local resources, but I feel guilty everytime I look at a tree and think 'Hey, that would make a great.....'

I just want to be responsible AND skillful!

Any thoughts?

1 comment:

  1. I agree with your sentiments. How does one practice wood craft skills if collecting wood requires damaging nature.

    I feel that constantly being on the lookout for freshly cut/fallen product is the only solution. Unless your life is in jeopardy there is no need to damage nature.