By Cathy Brandt
Due to life-long arthritis and now a bit of the "A" word (age), I can't hike very deep into wilderness areas. However, when I do I'm looking to experience solitude—to get away from masses of people and their litter, cell phones, dogs barking, and aircraft noise. It's very sad that some people have never been away from these distractions and never know what they're missing.
We all deserve wild solitude and I feel human beings actually need it. In the wild all of our senses experience fresh cues, and our lungs take in more clean air and oxygen. For some of us, it can also be a very emotional experience. A few tears may be shed at the sight of a wondrous peak, or a gurgling moss-lined creek. Wild places are my church, and many would agree with me on that!
Humans receive these benefits while in the wilderness, but wildlife species especially deserve to be left undisturbed to eke out their lives. I have an environmental and wildlife science background so I'm a big advocate for preserving habitat, and whenever possible not altering our natural world. While conducting wildlife surveys I experienced what it's like to be all alone in the wilderness and to witness how our ecosystems are supposed to operate. Wildlife and nature is my passion...
On a recent trip my husband and I hiked the 4.5-mile one-way trip to Pete Lake near Salmon La Sac, Washington. A great portion of the trail is in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. It's an easy hike but it encompasses breathtaking beauty along the way. There were abundant, delicious wild blueberries (mountain huckleberry) to snack on, and flowers in bloom such as lupine, fireweed, etc. There were lovely stream crossings along the way, and we saw many frogs on the trail that were barely the size of a little fingernail.
On our hike to the lake, we had the trail all to ourselves (except just before the lake), which was wonderful. Also, while at Pete Lake we only saw and spoke with two people, Forest Service women. Pete Lake was gorgeous that day...so clear, with little islands here and there out in the middle of the lake. We wished we had kayaks so we could have quietly explored the lake. Oh, and what a view of the snow-capped mountains ahead!
All of this would have been perfect except for several disturbing interruptions. Fairly early into our hike (which was on 8/6/20, around 10 AM) we heard a very loud roar overhead, and it actually scared me! I initially thought it may have been a large landslide somewhere because when we looked directly above us we saw no airplanes. This happened a few more times and I finally caught a glimpse of it. A fighter jet right above us, flying faster than the speed of sound, which explained why we didn't see the jets earlier.
Several jets would fly over at a time, and this happened fairly frequently throughout our entire hike. They were flying relatively low. That horrendous noise was maddening, and you had to stop and cover your ears to protect them. My husband is very hard of hearing, and it even bothered him. How could this be happening? Was it the Navy? In what instance should anything or anyone have permission to do this in this beautiful setting, or DID they have permission?
I don't think I've ever personally experienced such an obscene assault on our natural world, all while hiking in the supposed "Wilderness". The only thing worse I've experienced was years ago in an Olympic Peninsula forest during my "Marbled Murrelet" survey days, watching pre-cut trees (huge, ancient evergreens) being "processed" by running them through machines that ripped off their bark and huge branches in a matter of seconds. I felt physically ill when I watched that, knowing that the trees were many hundreds of years old.
During our trip to Pete Lake, the disturbing jet noise greatly altered the peaceful experience we should have had, and it surely affected the wildlife! I thought, "How often does this roaring occur, a disturbance that resident wildlife would have to endure in their everyday life, in their home?". These types of intrusions can detrimentally disrupt wildlife behaviors—their movements/migrations, mating opportunities, while hunting their prey, or defending themselves from predators.
It is not right that this is occurring, and it needs to be addressed! We must all speak out and act at times like these. I thank Wilderness Watch for what they do! Thanks to all who are reading my story, and I hope it helps to provide people an impetus to get more involved.
Several of our commenters have asked what they can do about these flight intrustions in Wilderness. Wilderness Watch recommends that folks contact their Congressional delegation and ask for action. Ask them to complain to the Navy and the Federal Aviation Administration, and to enact measures to protect Wildernesses from these kinds of military overflights. The Wilderness Act unfortunately does not protect the airspace above designated Wildernesses.
“Wilderness Experienced” is a platform to share stories of recent experiences in Wilderness. Stories focus on the virtues of Wilderness and/or challenges facing the National Wilderness Preservation System.
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Thanks Dick Johnson for the info. Thanks everyone for reading my story and I hope many of you will get more involved to make a difference!
thanks for the story...in Canada we are not burdened by these noise infractions as much, I hope we won't be in the future.
It is totally outrageous that a portion of this world doesn't care about mother natures land and the marine and wildlife animals. I have been petitioning to save the lives of these creatures whether it's in the US, Africa, or elsewhere and what happens we get some of them passed and next thing you know the species that we worked hard to protect get killed after they were let loose. It seems like a no win/win situation. The world will never be the same if all the animals are dead in the near future.
FOR A KIND, SAFE, HEALTHY and J U S T WORLD>>>
EACH and EVERY ONE OF US ... is RESPONSIBLE>>>
The most DESTRUCTIVE force of nature is...HUMAN NATURE...because it can choose>>>
Without REVERENCE for ALL LIFE and ALL THAT GIVES LIFE, there can be no PEACE...only pain, suffering, misery, fear and death>>>
OUR M O R A L progress depends on and is judged by how WE treat ALL LIFE and ALL THAT GIVES LIFE...TRAGICALLY...WE HAVEN'T PROGRESSED...yet>>>
Great story Cathy, I'm experiencing a similar situation hiking in the Golden Trout Wilderness,lots of military overflights. I know exactly how you feel..
..It's very annoying
How very sad that wildlife is assaulted by the horrendous noise of jet aircraft daily. Wrong and totally unnecessary.
Thank you! Your writing is such a wonderful gift to others AND to support the need for wilderness. Keep writing...along with that beautiful photography! Thanks for all you do!
Thank you Mary! Anyone writing a story can make a difference...our wild places need us to stand up and be heard.
Military assaults on wilderness peace and quiet absolutely, for sure, will not decrease under Mr. Trump. Vote, vote, vote! Help others to vote. ...Unless you want him to be re-elected?
Our poor, poor planet is much too close to her tipping point for us to be enacting policies that will only serve to push her over the edge. We must preserve whatever precious little pristine wilderness remaining and re-wild much of that stolen from the animal nations. Want to save the planet? Less breedin'. Go vegan.
Debbie, you are so right! One of the biggest threats to our planet is our population growth...are species has grown beyond it's 'Carrying Capacity'.
It is heartbreaking to see over and over the destruction people have on the planet. What is worse is that most people don't even give it a second thought or don't care at all.
Military jets I have seen in the Adirondacks were flying very low-just above treetop level and they also flew very low over the lake. We even saw a much heavier plane like a troop transport flying very low over the trees. We were surprised we did not hear a crash they were so low. Most of this dangerous flying is done in summer when lots of visitors to the park are out in the woods or on a lake. Very disturbing to all creatures in the area.
The name of the organization on Whidbey Island that is seeking to prevent the harassment of these planes is C.O.E.R. It is a region-wide organization trying to prevent this very scary and dangerous noise pollution. Here are some things you can do if you are being afflicted by these interminable extremely noise flights (in which pilots often fly dangerously close to the ground): (1) call the Navy complaint line at 360-257-6665 and let them know how dangerous and noisy these flights are (the complaint line is intended to register protests to specific planes flying at specific times); (2) call or write Rick Larsen's office (our area's representative to Congress) and be emphatic that you want him to DO SOMETHING. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Google C.O.E.R. Whidbey Island to see more resources. There is an even larger regional organization trying to deal with jet noise and the Navy's war games in state forests and sonic testing and all that -- the name of that organization might be listed within the information found in the citations listed on the google page.