"Rocks and minerals: the oldest storytellers." -A.D. Posey
Poetry. Who writes poetry? I did for a summer. It was 1999 and I was a backpacking guide in New Mexico at Philmont Scout Ranch. I laugh at the thought of me writing poetry years later. I lost my notebook of the poems in a move. They were my aspirations and my inspirations from writing next to rivers.
The backpacking cart was not even a consideration then. I carried a Jansport backpack. To impress my crews, I carried a large watermelon in secret. On the third day of each trip I'd reveal the watermelon and amuse my crews with its size.
Those days are gone. I'm older now. I have less time to sit next to the river. I have little time to observe the rocks from the creek bed. When I did have time, I noticed the beauty in a weathered stone. A stone that once was rough is smooth from the centuries of water changing its shape. As time moves on, the rocks in the river transform. They lose their rough edges.
As time has passed my body has lost some edge. Injuries slow me to the rivers. Time has smoothed out some edges. The happens to all of us.
Like the rock in the river, we are all exposed to life's experiences. Likewise, our culture is exposed to our experiences and these are often shaped by innovation. Innovation is constantly improving our lives, but our culture is often slower to adapt to certain changes. This is particularly true when discussing our wilderness accesses.
Since launching the Honey Badger Wheel as a backpacking cart, we have felt the current. We knew it was a new concept. That we knew. All new inventions take time and not all opinions should be considered individually.
In reference to air conditioning in 1889 Thomas Edison said, "Fooling around with alternating current is just a waste of time. Nobody will use it ever."
In 1966 Time Magazine said, "Remote [online] shopping, while entirely feasible, will flop - because women like to get out of the house, like to handle merchandise, like to be able to change their minds."
Backpacking did not begin as an activity for recreation until the 1920's. Have you seen Back to the Future III? Do you remember the part when Dr. Emmet Brown is in the saloon telling everyone that in the future people will 'walk for recreation and run for fun'? Well, here, just watch this short clip.
Yes. People will, have, and do backpack for fun. The question is, in what form will people backpack? Let me explain. As I mentioned, backpacking began in the 1920's as a recreational activity. In the summer of 1999 I learned the joy and simplicity of putting on a pack and walking through the forests and along the streams. These are God's creations. They are beautiful and sacred. Everyone should experience them. And more and more are.
In the last few years we have seen an explosion of growth in bikepacking. That's right, bikepacking. Just Google it. It's huge now. There is a self supporting race with more competitors each year that begins in Canada and ends at the border with Mexico. It is the Tour Divide Race.
I'm certain many people never thought other people would want to throw a pack onto their back and walk through the mountains. I'm also certain that there were many people who thought other people would never jump on a bike and strap packs to the frame to explore the mountains for days on end. And now we are seeing the irony of people commenting online that other people would never strap a pack onto a wheel and hike through the mountains without a pack on their back or butt on a saddle. But the paradigm is shifting and culture is adapting.
When we first explored the idea of wheelpacking, we knew we were onto something. We could have thought otherwise when we explored products already on the market. There were some innovative ideas. There were some silly looking products, but they were innovative. We'll get into these another time.
We built our first prototype, took out a patent, and launched a crowdfunding campaign. We had no idea how it would do. It funded. We still were not sure. We launched our website and waited. Then we started selling Honey Badger Wheels. We've been contacted by the Army, DHS, hunters, hikers, parents of disabled children, and more. Wheelpacking is off to a good start.
As the laws currently stand, about 95% of hiking trails in the United States are off limits to the backpacking cart. The Wilderness Act of 1964 never intended to ban a backpacking cart. The 1966 legislation used to enforce the Wilderness Act reads:
"Mechanical transport, as herein used, shall include any contrivance which travels over ground, snow, or water, on wheels, tracks, skids, or by floatation and is propelled by a nonliving power source contained or carried on or within the device."
36 CFR § 293.6(a) (1973), formerly 36 CFR § 251.75 (1966)
The erroneous interpretation that bans the backpacking cart in wilderness essentially classifies the human operator as a nonliving power source. Congratulations, the government has dubbed you zombies. We feel it is time legislators head to the mountains, find a river, and sit to contemplate for a moment. Our legislators need some inspiration. They need to learn the lessons of the rock and listen to its story.
Without passing the proposed legislation of Senators Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch titled S.3205 The Human Powered Transportation in Wilderness Areas Act, the backpacking cart will be without a human operator in 95% of the best hiking trails in the United States. It will not enter the wilderness.
The current is moving in the direction it should. Groups like the Sustainable Trails Coalition are working hard to provide a voice for the backpacking cart and educate people on the comparative damages to wilderness caused by pack animals which are currently allowed. Studies show pack animals cause significant damage to water sources, eco systems, and trails. These studies show that the game cart does not.
Emmet Brown's ideas are not so crazy or far off. People walk with a pack on their backs for recreation. People bike with packs on their bikes for recreation. People will push a pack on a wheel for recreation.
Backpacking with the use of a wheel is still a new idea. We get it. So consider the following:
Imagine the opportunities that await a population with chronic pain in need of an outlet. The vast majority of this group is unable to put a backpack on and walk over trails for extended periods. People with chronic back pain know this too well. However, pushing a backpacking cart like the Honey Badger Wheel is the medicine needed. Imagine the benefits of opening up public lands to a simple single wheel cart. The health benefits are huge for a large portion of our society.
I'm not broken. I'm not even old. Sure I have injuries, but I can hike and I can get out to the river. I have commitments and responsibilities now. We all do. Let's make time to take our kids, friends, spouses, whoever is close, into the wilderness. Let's hike along the beautiful trails, enjoy the colors of the foliage, and the whistles of the birds. Let's sit along the river and listen.
The backpacking cart or the idea of wheelpacking is the rock in the river. How we explore the wild is changing. Technology is changing and our paradigms are shifting. Our experiences are shaping how we view hiking. Our legislation is keeping us from fully enjoying our wilderness. Perhaps it doesn't matter if S.3205 makes it beyond the bench. Wheelpacking is here, just go to "wheelpacking.com".
Whether wheelpacking becomes or does not become what backpacking or bikepacking is, what matters is that we enjoy what we have, that we enjoy the wilderness. Let's put ourselves in a place where we'll want to write poetry. Let's begin by the backpacking cart.