“Did you hear about Scott Jurek?” someone asked me recently during a Saturday group run.
“Yeah,” I said. “He set a record for running the Appalachian Trail.” The ultrarunning legend had completed the 2,200 mile trail in just over 46 days. One 50-mile run is a real challenge for me; Jurek averaged 50 miles a day.
“When he finished he got a littering citation,” my friend added, “for spilling champagne on the trail.”
That sounded like one of the ludicrous but true stories in the This Is True newsletter (which I subscribe to, and recommend). But I suspected there was more to it than Prohibitionist park officials. And as an Outside magazine subscriber, I received an email linking to their story on the subject. If you’re at all interested in our National Parks, you should read it (click here).
Jurek had finished on Mount Katahdin in Maine’s Baxter State Park, and the park’s director decided to set a public and highly visible example. The champagne wasn’t the real issue; rather, it was the commercial aspect of his finish, which hadn’t been authorized by the park. There were also far more people there than park rules allowed.
It’s ironic that efforts to get people exercising outside, and to experience our wilderness areas, can lead to overstressing the wilderness. We entrust park officials to preserve and protect the parks but also to permit public access to them. It’s a fine line to walk.
The story remains controversial. (For another perspective, read the Runner’s World article here.) But perhaps that’s the point. Hopefully it will bring abuse of park property into focus and help educate people how to enjoy wilderness while preserving it for others.
In an upcoming post I will address my disgust with another controversial “athletic” activity taking place in our National Parks. While “following your passion” sounds great and fulfilling on the surface, it can wreak havoc with other people who don’t deserve to have to clean up when things go wrong.
In the meantime, I’d welcome your thoughts on whether the Baxter State Park director acted appropriately or went overboard with Mr. Jurek.