If you aren’t familiar, Hanging Lake is a natural geological phenomenon. For thousands of years, two waterfalls meet to form a rare, elevated lake, maintaining a stable ecological system and a lush, hanging plant garden–both fragile and in danger of “too much love.”
That’s right, we love this national natural landmark so much, we’re smothering it. Although the National Park Service (NPS) has enforced a variety of etiquette guidelines (aka RULES) for experiencing this place (Basically, see with your eyes; not your hands, feet, or wading torso), enforcement is our responsibility as visitors. Cue “America the Beautiful” fanfare and feelings of pride and accountability, right?
Well, many people become a little over-excited, and neglect the countless signs that plead with visitors: “Please do not cut corners at switchbacks” and “No dipping body parts into the water or walking on fallen trees within the lake as contaminants from your body will impact the fragile ecosystem.”
During our trip, one such visitor ventured out onto a fallen tree within the lake (the tree pictured, above, in the title photo). Of course, her friends (four or five of them) wanted to do it too (Monkey See, Monkey Do), until an entire group of young adults in a mere ten minutes had waded their bodies through this delicately balanced environment. You can imagine how hard it was to watch, especially since the National Parks Service says: “It is not only our responsibility to police our own actions and that of our families and friends, but also to gently remind other visitors that may not be aware of the rules and why they exist.”
Mikey decided it was important to gently remind these visitors of environmental respect and caution. Unfortunately, he put himself out on the line, and while many other bystanders supported him, the visitors who trespassed became upset.
While I feel blessed to have experienced this place and didn’t violate any of the rules, I still felt guilty, personally responsible, for my presence as a part of the crowds of people who, scrambling to see a piece of natural paradise, threatened to damage it for good.
If you feel the need, donate or volunteer to the NPS to protect our natural landmarks, and when you visit, please, respect the landscape around you.
Some believe it might be better to seal off these places to visitors in order to ensure their survival. What do you think?