Is Rural America as Limiting to the Outdoorsmen as Urban Sprawl?

Cornfields or Skyscrapers?

In full disclosure: I grew up in America's fertile Midwest. In fact, I still live here.

In even more disclosure: I have a degree in agriculture. 

Additionally, I lived on a farm for a handful of years. My time on that farm arguably jump started my love and infatuation for everything outdoor related. There was a grove of trees and several acres of wide open pasture that I became enamored with, despite being literally hundreds of miles away from the nearest National Park. 

As I grew up and started to travel more in college, I realized that if given a choice, I tend to gravitate towards the canyons, mountains, and miles upon miles of uninterrupted trail and wilderness.

These are very hard to come by in the bread-basket of America. 

I have every access to long walks in the woods, a jump in the lake, the beauty of green rolling hills, and pure-white blankets of snow powdering the leafless trees in the winter. But when I, and many others in the area, want to take it up a notch and expand the adventure, we are met with a cornfield or grazing cattle.

I also have spent time in some of America's largest cities, noticing that for some of them, concrete seems to be it's largest export.

Several miles of interstate changes and exits and endless traffic later, you can arrive at a trail-head that is already bustling with the loads of people who want to get away, too. Suddenly your search for solidarity and an intimate connection with nature has been reduced to the bustling hum-drum of every other soul searcher out there looking for the same things you are.

So naturally, a less-populated, rural area has to be more kind to the aesthetic voyager than a big city, right? 

Arguably. If you want river banks and little lakes and small patches of wooded areas, then you will be just fine out here in the heartland.

But remember that farmland is not public land. Much of the areas that an outdoorsmen may be drawn to could belong to property owners. It's not uncommon for one person to own miles of wooded areas. Avid hunters and trappers might move out here for just that purpose. Public land is few, though in it's defense, it is usually beautiful, well-maintained, and my personal favorite -- sparsely populated. 

So which is more kind to the outdoor-lover -- rural or urban?

You tell me.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Katie Johnson

Alone in the wilderness.