Natural landmarks. They’re pretty cool. So cool, people of all ages and sizes, fans of the great outdoors and nature-haters alike are flocking towards them—cramming into their parking lots and vying to get that money social media shot. Ironically, the premise of the National Natural Landmark program in the U.S., is conservation. Natural places deemed the best examples of biological and geological features typically get slapped with a recognition plaque from the government in hopes of highlighting and preserving the country’s natural heritage. When you see that fancy plaque, you better get your smart phone out because you know you’re about to gain at least five followers on Instagram. But instead of inspiring appreciation and care for these amazing natural wonders, the seal of approval for a place to be added to the National Registry of Natural Landmarks has become more of a death sentence—with once scenic and accessible natural beauty replaced with hourly shuttle visits and for some—the constant threat of being shut down.
But screw it—in the end—it’s really about that blowing up your Twitter following, amirite? And once you snap a photo of your favorite natural landmark, it’s pretty much no good to you anymore. (Repeat photos on social media or so taboo.) It probably makes the most sense just to get them all shut down so the Secretary of the Interior can give us a new checklist of sweet places to test out our new DSLRs and photo filters. Not sure how to get a natural landmark shut down? It’s pretty easy. Here are five tips to help you out.
1.) Leave the Trail
Park Rangers hate this one! But it’s really no big deal. If you see signs that say things like, “Stay on the trail! Shortcutting causes erosion!” Or, “Please Stay on the Trail — Revegetation in Process.” Those signs are mostly just suggestions. Go wherever you want. See that insanely clear, pure alpine lake in the distance? Go take a dip! Maybe fill up that tiny, mostly empty Gatorade bottle you’ve been carrying around in it. After all, it’s not your fault you already drank all of the water you brought on your hike. How were you supposed to know it was a moderate, two-hour hike?
2.) Don’t Respect the Animals
Ugh… animals are the worst. Doesn’t that bear know that he’s photo-bombing your sick Snapchat? Well, since he’s there, you might as well get closer and snap a selfie. It’s the only logical thing to do. See that deer grazing on the trail? That grass looks pretty nasty. You should probably share some of your energy bar with it. How can you call yourself an animal lover if you sit back and let that deer starve to death on fresh green grass? When you finally get out of this god-forsaken rugged land, you deserve a medal.
3.) Leave Your Trash
Lugging your empty plastic water bottles and boxes from the smashed cold cut you ate for lunch is so cumbersome. Like, who has time for that. Just leave it on the side of the trail. Granola bar wrappers? Toss those out, too. Someone will probably pick it up. If not, chances are, it’ll just blow itself straight into a trash or recycling bin. Don’t even worry about it. I mean, in such a busy place, why are there not trash cans lining that 1.5-mile nature trail that you just suffered through? Pretty thoughtless, if you ask me.
4.) Be an Asshole
This one is pretty self-explanatory, but if you need some ideas on how to execute, we’ve got you covered. First, pick a fight with a stranger at the trailhead. That last parking spot in the lot was totally yours, and you better fight for it. If you end up losing the fight, just park anywhere, like on the side of the highway, or blocking traffic on the road leading to the trailhead. Second, bring your dog. Especially on a super busy trail surrounded by a delicate eco-system. Shoot, let Fido off the leash! He’ll definitely have more fun that way. And like most signage at the trailhead, that poster that says “No Dogs Allowed” is also just a suggestion. Like the majority of the rules out there, this one doesn’t apply to you. And lastly, stop in the middle of the trail every five minutes to take photos. That will definitely piss off the other hikers around you enough to start a mini brawl.
5.) Don’t Educate Yourself
How hard is a visit to one of the 600 National Natural Landmarks anyway, right? Not that hard. There’s no need to check the parking situation before you go. Also, don’t worry about checking the length or the difficulty of the hike. People do it all of the time! Should be a breeze. No need to wear the proper footwear or bring water, the government says the place is cool, so just go with it. And definitely don’t check to see what the natural surroundings are like. Preserving an incredibly delicate eco-system? Not as important as finally getting to use the #nature hashtag. And to the people you meet out there actually enjoying nature and doing the opposite of everything on this list? You know what to do: Shut. It. Down.