Archive for March 20th, 2007


“We gardeners have always had trouble heeding Henry Ward Beecher’s sound nineteenth century advice, that we not be “made wild by pompous catalogs from florists and seedsmen”

Michael Pollan wrote that in Second Nature, a gardener’s education, a collection of essays by him published in 1991.  If you haven’t read this book, I recommend it.   It is thoughtful, amusing, and informative.    Jim and I were so taken by the chapter wherein the above quote is found that the phrase “made wild by pompous catalogs” has become a regular member of our lexicon.

Since I do order seeds and plants from catalogs, and we do tend to buy things on line and from catalogs, this house receives a plethora of print material begging us to buy this or that product.  It is a rare day that the mail does not contain at least one catalog.   I recycle all the paper after I am finished with it.   I keep a file of current catalogs in case I need to get floating row cover, or beneficial nematodes, or some other product not available in our small, benighted community.

Yesterday I received a catalog from a company called Canadian Mountain Holidays.  Appropriately, it arrived in a plain brown envelope, because I found it to be almost pornographic in tone and content.   Forty pages of seductive pictures of a section of the Canadian Rockies that is pristine and unspoiled, made available for your hiking and viewing pleasure by means of helicopters.   This is called Heli-hiking, and they also offer Heli-skiing in the winter.  If you can’t find something you like to do offered by this company, they include a sheet of advertising for 16 other companies that are also offering luxurious guided “trekking” all over the world.

This particular company promises to entertain you in the Columbia Mountains, a section of peaks and ranges just to the west of the Canadian Rockies.   The pictures lay out beautiful views of mountains, flower strewn meadows, glaciers; two page spreads of luscious beauties, designed to entice you, to make you pant for the experience of putting you there, making you lust for the experience. 

The literature boasts that you will not bother any other hikers with the noise of your helicopter transport, because there aren’t any other people out there.   Why?  Because it is too remote, and too rugged.  “Only the most inspired and stubborn backpackers are able to bushwhack their way to the eloquently lonely heights that we attain with ease, thanks to our helicopters. . . . Very, very rarely we may see a hiker in the distance; almost always it’s just splendidly us.”   (Emphasis is theirs.)  So, very, very rarely they disturb the peace and tranquility that some stubborn and inspired backpacker has worked very hard to attain.   And that makes it okay, I guess.

The company swears that they are committed to being low impact.   They mention in their catalog that they keep track of where the wildlife is, and plan their flights so they won’t be disturbed.  They mention that they have garnered several awards for sustainable tourism.   And it is true that entering an area by helicopter is very low impact, it doesn’t even have to touch the ground to let passengers off or take them on.

Here’s the kicker.   The cheapest “experience” they offer is three nights accommodation in one of the luxury lodges they maintain, and 2 1/2 hiking days, cost a measly $2102 US dollars per person.  A family of four can have a really wonderful 3 day vacation for a mere eight grand.  If that same family wants four days out there, it’ll only be another four thousand dollars. 

Maybe I’m just jealous. 

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