I love music as much as the next guy, probably more. When I got my first job I saved up all my summer wages and bought a serious stereo system, carefully selecting each component and leaving enough for beautiful, enormous floor speakers with real wood cabinets. For years I built an album collection that got me through college and girlfriends and road-trips and depression, and I’ll be the first to admit I played the Cars first album at window-rattling decibels probably way too many times. I dial back the volume these days and I’ve traded the floor speakers for more discreet shelf models, but I definitely get it: listening to and occasionally cranking your jams is awesome. But dude, don’t do it in the woods.
The convergence of Bluetooth speakers and millennials has spawned a phenomenon of blasting music in the out-of-doors that I find reprehensible. I experience it most on the disc golf course but have also been subjected to it on mountain bike rides and trail runs. What at first I thought were a few isolated malcontents raising their middle finger to the gore-tex crowd I now suspect to be something deeper: a generational disregard and ignorance of the gift of natural quietude.
Since before I could crawl, I was immersed in the cradle of the mountains outside of Rocky Mountain National Park where my father built a cabin. Literally all of my life I have wandered, played and been deeply nourished in the woods…mostly those woods. For me, a critical component of a nature experience, then and now, comes through the ears. It’s not a lack of sound really, but a realization that each sound you hear is identifiable against a backdrop of silence. The crunching of small stones under your bootstep, the scratching of a squirrel escaping up a pine tree, the rustle of aspen leaves quivering in the slightest rise of wind. In this environment, sound is distinct and informative, sometimes alarming (did you hear that?) but always nurturing. It makes connections to our primal selves as we listen actively and unravel meaning as our ancestors did. For me, the noises of the woods are deeply pleasurable.
When I go out to play, I don’t want to hear Metallica, or Bob Marley or even Ray LaMontagne blasting from your pack. I want to hear a real free bird, not the Lynyrd Skynyrd variety. Downtown, where noise is noise, do your own thing, but out there…in the sacred, less traveled, unpaved places…allow nature in and you’ll be doing both of us a favor.
What’s your opinion on this? Have you experienced this in your sport? Leave me a comment!