What is "Backcountry?"

Information About Backcountry
With the growing interest in outdoor recreation and interest in "extreme" sports, people have been flocking into the "backcountry" in record numbers. But just what is backcountry? It is anywhere you can escape the city streets and concrete wilderness most North Americans call home.

State, National and Municipal Parks

Backcountry is easy to find, even within a couple of hours from our largest cities like Los Angeles or New York. Within the confines of the geographic lines drawn in the sand of our national, state and municipal parks lie thousands of acres of wild backcountry waiting to be explored. The Santa Monica Mountains just outside Los Angeles have thousands of acres of backcountry trails and terrain within an hour of Los Angeles. What defines this as "backcountry?" It is a parcel of land, set aside by our government, that is to remain in its wild and natural state for the enjoyment and recreation of all.

National Park Service (NPS) reports that our National Park System received 272.6 million recreation visits in 2006. So with more people than ever getting out to our parks, the backcountry is becoming an exciting vacation choice for North Americans.


Forever Wild

Taking a cue from the Adirondack Park, the largest park in the contiguous states, backcountry should be defined as "Forever Wild." Backcountry is wild and free space that remains in its natural state for the enjoyment of all visitors. It is a place which requires some knowledge of wilderness camping and technique, and where the user accepts and recognizes risks associated with being away from definitive medical help, rescue services and modern conveniences.

History of our National Parks

In 1870, Montana lawyer Cornelius Hedges began planting seeds in the American psyche to begin our National Park system. As a followup to the 1870 Washarn-Langford-Doane Expedition exploration of the Yellowstone area, he wanted to test the American public's desire for preservation of wild lands and backcountry. With Yellowstone being a prime example of backcountry, this began a long tradition and natural legacy of setting aside parcels of land that will and shall remain wild and in their natural state.

The Golden 24 Hours

In urban or populated areas, emergency rescue and medical crews refer to the first hour of attending to victims and patients as the "golden hour." When you step into the backcountry, this is not a feasible option. Instead, you are lucky if you get the "golden 24 hours." This is one of the defining factors of backcountry. There are limited resources and high risks should injury or illness occur while recreating or adventuring in the wild.

Now That You Know, Go!

Now that you have a basic understanding of the backcountry and what it is, go out and enjoy it. Take the time to find a local park or open space near you, make your gear list and check it twice and head for the wild backcountry for an eye-opening experience. But be warned, the more time you spend in the backcountry, the more you begin to look at your urban life with suspect eyes! Go out, stub your toes in the dirt, watch wildlife and get into the wilds. You will thank yourself for doing so.

Article Written By Eric Cedric

A former Alaskan of 20 years, Eric Cedric now resides in California. He's published in "Outside" and "Backpacker" and has written a book on life in small-town Alaska, "North by Southeast." Cedric was a professional mountain guide and backcountry expedition leader for 18 years. He worked in Russia, Iceland, Greece, Turkey and Belize. Cedric attended Syracuse University and is a private pilot.

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