Many of us enter a wilderness area to get away from the obvious signs of human habitation. We go to commune with nature, to be awed by rock, tree or water that has power and age beyond what we can comprehend.
Ancient ruins and other cultural conservation sites have no less appeal. To stand near a structure built with the often inexplicable ingenuity of early civilizations can be literally breathtaking.
The desire to leave a time capsule of that moment by means of a scratched name and date is nothing new. Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Mayans, not to mention Eighteenth Century Romantic Poets have succumbed. (Lord Byron’s carved name on a column of the Temple to Poseidon at Cape Sounion, Greece is likely one of the world’s most famous pieces of graffiti.)
Organizations like Leave No Trace are a source of activism and education to protect primarily the outdoors. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take those principals with us wherever we travel.
A part of any traveling pleasure is the shared experience of it. Another dimension is added when we can turn to a companion and exchange a knowing glance or smile that speaks volumes about the power of what we’ve just seen, or tasted, or smelled. If George Gordon had stacked stones instead of scratched his name there wouldn’t be a record of his action. But he still would have been a voice in a long and ongoing conversation of travelers and their memories.