By Ben Olson
Like many of us who were born and raised in Sandpoint, I have played the “Sandpoint Shuffle” several times. This dance step involves feeling trapped and wanting to see the world, driving across the Long Bridge with all your possessions jammed in the back of the car and living somewhere else in the world, only to return months or years later to feel the embrace of Sandpoint once again.
After high school, I left this little shire to attend college in Colorado. A few years later I moved back, then moved down to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the film industry. After that left a sour taste in my mouth, I moved back to Sandpoint, left again, moved back, left again and finally moved back for good about 12 years ago.
In all my ramblings around America over the years, one of my favorite parts of settling in a new area has always been hopping in my truck and driving around back roads to find those peaceful places to camp, recreate, hike and wander outside the usual circuit of the masses.
Some days were more fruitful than others. Often I’d drive all day and take every unknown dirt road I passed until it led to a dead-end up a mountaintop, not finding any cool spots to add to my ever-growing list of places to escape. Other days I’d luck upon a beautiful camp spot by a river, or a secret vista where only the hardy — and patient — wanderers congregated.
There is an incredible feeling of accomplishment and discovery when you run across one of these gems. I still have maps from my wandering days with black marker dots and scribbled notes denoting random turns, instructions and information about the spot. Then, when faced with a few days off from work, I’d pore through these notes and select a spot to camp for the weekend, knowing with a fair degree of certainty that it was probably unoccupied.
It took a lot of work and a fair amount of gas some days to locate these places and mark them down on my map, but the payoff was always worth it, because I found them myself through trial and error.
I’ve noticed a troubling trend on local social media forums lately. Newcomers to the area will post that they’re looking for a good place to camp and — to my horror — people actually respond with comments giving instructions to spots that locals have cherished and protected for years. The inevitable usually happens: more and more people use these once special camping spots with more frequency, leaving behind their trash and telling all their own friends about it until the quiet little place I once knew is nothing more than another dot on the map for tourists and weekend warriors to post on Instagram. Not to mention the fact that the usually-unoccupied place is often already taken by a truck pulling a camper with out-of-state plates.
For the love of all that is holy, please stop sharing these locations on social media. When people ask for inside local information, the best comment is to encourage them to find their own places through the trial and error that we locals have employed for years. Just because we have access to social media and information at our fingertips doesn’t mean we have to share it with everybody who asks.
Does an angler tell you exactly where he or she goes to slay those big rainbows? Does a morel hunter tell you where they found that laundry bag full of fungus? Do huckleberry pickers share their coveted locations for the masses? The answer to all of the above is a resounding no. They guard their secret spots because they know the moment they share it with a wider audience, those quiet days of foraging or fishing have the potential to turn into a busy day at City Beach with gaggles of people tromping all over that once-hallowed ground.
If you’re new here and don’t know where to camp or fish or forage for mushrooms, don’t look to Facebook for answers. Get out there and find it yourself. It’s bad enough that everyone seems to have discovered North Idaho in the past year, but I’ll be damned if I sit by and watch well-meaning people blast a hidden gem all over the internet because they want to be helpful. Don’t enable the lazy weekend warriors by giving them the keys to the kingdom. Make them work for it like we all have for years.
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