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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thank you for sharing your story of what sounds like an amazing place that deserves every protection. what can we do about the military noise issue?
This personal account of noise and silenced was amazing! I feel so small and useless to make changes/improvements in our natural world experiences . Thank goodness for Wilderness Watch!!!
Diane Williams, do not think you are small and useless! It is an amazing feeling to work hard on something important and be successful (for instance, years ago a group of us helped 'Save Squak' - SaveSquak.com). There are so many grassroots efforts that were started by just ONE person! Even if you just write a letter once in a while, you are helping.
How we treat the earth is so shameful. I know there is a procedure to complain about airplane noise, so I hope your writer went through that procedure. The military must comply with rules and hopefully there are some that would prevent this disruption to Nature. Shameful behavior!
Hello all concerned lovers of nature everywhere! I wholeheartedly agree with the concerns of the author of man made disturbances in our natural places we try to escape to for peace and tranquility and quiet reflection! Man is destroying the planet everyday until no place will be left as sanctuary from stress and chaos!