In today's terms, the Backcountry is a name that defines the most remote areas of America - the mountains, wildflowers, streams, and wildlife that are most often only really accessible by hiking and exploring on foot. These are the mysterious lands far from the traffic and congestion of our cities and even our rural towns. The Backcountry is a place of wonderment and awe, a place where animals and plants still thrive in their native habitat - where the stars are so bright and close they leave one breathless.
But if we looked at these same places a few hundred years ago, we would not have called them 'The Backcountry'. As the United States was expanding westward these remote corners were looked at with fear of the unknown and were seen as a wilderness that civilized Man was destined to tame and control. This Manifest Destiny ( as it was known in it's time ) is the foundation for the laying of the railroads and settlement of West. Settlement that impacted in many ways on the 'Backcountry'. During Camp this year we'll study those impacts and the people and land which experienced the change.
Now, look back a few hundred years, when the Native Americans lived throughout the region. These native peoples had unique and important ways of defining and relating to the "BackCountry".
For the Chumash the BackCountry was 'home'. They did not require farming or ranching and were able to relate to the land in a very unique way.
For other California Native Tribal groups different ways of building village or community, along with different food requirements, the BackCountry held it's own unique meaning.
But one thing is shared throughout the Native American communities that lived in California, long before it was California. For these original residents the remote forests & snow capped mountains were treasured as the locations of seasonal visitations - for hunting, as trade routes and for vision quests.
Today, the Backcountry is separated from our cities and towns by the 'Frontcountry', which are the lands in our foothills and closer mountains that are easily accessible by car and are often the location of picturesque housing developments. Always, people see the Backcountry as better because of it's isolation - a place that is preserved from the smog, traffic jams, and power plants of city life. The Backcountry is seen by today's eye both as a mysterious and far away place and a sometimes overly popular recreation place.
It is at this juncture of the Mysterious and the Recreational that we see two important parts of this years studies of the California Backcountry:
First - we'll learn about the native peoples, plants and land. We'll come to know the lore, the poetry and the habitats that make up the California Backcountry.
Second - we'll learn about Envirnmental Resource Management. What it means to have a beautiful Backcountry like we do in California and how to keep it beautiful and open for our Exploration.
If we look at the history of the human relationship to the Backcountry, we will see that it has evolved from being the native people's homeland, source of food, and religious experience, to the fierce and threatening wilderness that settlers sought to tame, to becoming a carefully guarded national treasure now that so little of it remains. In many ways this is a circle - from people who respected the wonder and beauty of the natural world, to conquerors who sought to control it, to people today who are concerned that we will lose this earthly treasure if we do not protect it from the impacts of urban growth ... and these people today are beginning to recall the wisdom of the native people's way of understanding the earth, and thus the circle begins to close and complete itself.
Camp Internet's California Backcountry project is part of Our Global Heratige Project - Camp Internet's series of 4 Expeditions that bring our learning community in touch with the science, history, writings, art - and wonders - of the Oceans and Backcountries of the world.
We are starting in California, and will be expanding across the American Southwest and to other continents over the next two years.
We welcome you to enjoy this learning adventure with us and to take part in exploring Our Global Heritage.
California BackCountry Activities