Mount Everest isn't the only natural wonder experiencing a ridiculous increase in tourism --and, with it, trash, ecological damage, and risk. At the Arizona Republic, Brandon Loomis writes about the massive increases in athletic backcountry tourism at the Grand Canyon. It's easy to see the similarities to previous stories you've read about crowds of hikers on Everest. Just last month, Loomis writes, 224 rim-to-rim hikers — people who march down one side of the canyon and back up the other in a day, a vertical change of 10,000 feet — converged on a rest area all at once.
The good news is that when these traffic jams happen at the Grand Canyon, nobody dies. The bathroom line just gets really, really long.
The downside is that all this traffic does have a real impact on the backcountry ecology, and on the ability of other kinds of tourists to safely navigate the Canyon, themselves.
Park officials discourage hiking to the river and back in one day — trailhead volunteers talk some ill-prepared hikers out of it, and trail signs warn against it — but it’s allowed. Sometimes, runners racing the clock pass mule trains unsafely, Uberuaga said. In other cases, people attempting to hike rim to rim in a day end up sleeping on picnic tables without permits, or celebrating while campers are trying to sleep. “I’ve been on the corridor trails early in the morning, and the people running it are almost knocking people over and kind of running people off the trail,” he said.
Maggie Koerth-Baker is the science editor at BoingBoing.net. She writes a monthly column for The New York Times Magazine and is the author of Before the Lights Go Out, a book about electricity, infrastructure, and the future of energy. You can find Maggie on Twitter and Facebook.