Portfolio Introduction

30 Apr

My name is Joseph Patteson and I am a rising junior at East Carolina University. I am a declared Exercise Physiology major, and I am also enrolled in the inaugural class of the ECU Honors College. As part of the Honors College Curriculum we have to take class called Honors Seminars. This semester I jumped at the chance to enroll in the Wilderness Writing seminar that was being offered.

As part of this seminar we have had to create and maintain a blog, in which we have done several personal writings reflecting on our different experiences through the course. This blog contains everything from simple quick write invite pieces reflecting on a day’s activities, to a visual essay, and an all encompassing manifesto. We also had to keep a daybook in which we did on-site writings through each of our trips in this class. The daybook contains a lot less formal writings than this blog. A lot of times the writings in my daybook take a lot more risks than the writings I have published in my blog. I have done everything from make scientific predictions and observations to doodling and drawing sketches in my daybook. However, there have been several entries from my daybook that I have gone back and used as inspiration for my blog writings.

At the end of the year, we went back through all of our blog writings and tagged different themes we noticed in our writings. In doing this review of my writings I noticed a lot of different things in my writings that I had not intended or noticed when originally writing it. For example through the initial writings of each piece I never noticed how much I actually reflected on my own personal experiences. I had a lot of self-discovery moments through all the writings of the year. When reviewing the writings and noticing bits like this I would tag them as Aha Self! When you, the reader, are going through my blog, you can use these tags on the side to navigate directly too the entries that I experience these self discovery and reflection moments. Or you can use one of the other tags to go directly to pieces pertaining to other themes.

In looking back through all the tags I picked up on a few trends going through the themes. For example (as stated earlier), I have a lot of self discovery moments that I had not noticed before. Also in comparing my daybook to my blog there is a lot more science related things in my daybook than in my blog. Also there is a decent amount of tags pertaining to wilderness. Now, I feel that I actually learned more about the wilderness in this class than my blog and daybook show.

I had a great time in this course. It was by far the highlight of my semester. I have never claimed to be a good writer, and along with this I have never particularly enjoyed writing. However, for the sake of this class I felt that the writing really wasn’t all that big of the pain. I think I actually learned the most not only in the writings but in reviewing the writings, and reliving the experiences I had when I was writing them. The trips in this class were a blast. The day hunting for shark teeth is an experience that I plan on repeating several times. The Hebron Rock colony is one of the most fun things I have done all my life and is definitely a place I plan on revisiting. Also, the serenity and peace I felt at Shackleford is an experience that I feel has played a definite role in shaping my Wilderness Ethic. This class has provided me with a new lens to look at the world through. And even if I forget all the Science and writing information that I have learned in this course I will never lose the view of the world this lens has given me.

Now I invite you to explore my blog and see what you think about my writings. See if you can’t find something that you relate to, or disagree with, or just find funny and share it with me. I hope that you can find inspiration in this blog to go out and experience nature the way I have through this course.

Wilderness Manifesto

19 Apr

There are several different ways to view wilderness and what mankind’s role in wilderness should be. The way mankind interacts with and views wilderness is considered to be one’s wilderness ethic. One of the biggest parts of any type of wilderness ethic is the idea of wilderness preservation. Before one can form their own wilderness ethic, or even begin to think about their stance on wilderness preservation, they first must define what the wilderness actually is.

In my Honors Seminar Wilderness Writing class we looked at several different journals and articles that gave definitions of the word wilderness. Each of these sources gave slightly varying views on wilderness and how it should be defined, however, they all failed to completely capture the essence of wilderness in my opinion. Through several wilderness emersion experiences and personal expeditions, I have developed a personal definition of what the wilderness is and thus, my own personal Wilderness Ethic. Putting words to this definition is a more challenging task than it may seem.

Merriam Webster defines wilderness as:

a (1): a tract or region uncultivated and uninhabited by human beings (2): an area essentially undisturbed by human activity together with its naturally developed life community”. (Merriam Webster)

This is the definition that is readily accepted by the general public. However, this definition is very limiting in its nature. To simply qualify wilderness as an area that is uninhabited or undisturbed by mankind is a very loose way of defining it in any respect. However, this is not the only way that it is defined.

The definition of Wilderness, as accepted by Congress, is found in the Wilderness Act. This Act defines the wilderness as an area of land “without permanent improvements or human habitation … .which generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature” and “has at least five thousand acres of land or is of sufficient size as to make practicable its preservation and use in an unimpaired condition” (“Wilderness Act”). This definition is a lot more specific. It adds qualifications other than simply being land that lacks human influence. It also adds in a size qualification by stating that the land mass has to be five thousand acres or more. However, this definition still lacks some critical points that need to be taken into consideration. It doesn’t address issues like ownership, and what qualifies as human influence? Could just any tract of land that is over five thousand acres and appears to not have been tampered with by mankind still be wilderness? There are landowners out west that own thousands of acres of undeveloped land. Some of these land owners have ranches and use the land for grazing however, others do not. There are still hundreds of thousands of acres of land that are owned by people and simply are not developed or used for ranching. These lands can be used at the owner’s discretion and are simply marked as private property. Are these areas still wilderness even though they are legally owned by someone? And if so how can a man own the wilderness?

The underlying theme, regardless of which definition is being consulted, is that wilderness is completely separated from mankind and human influence in general. This statement again raises more questions than answers. The question is; are there any areas that are truly uninfluenced by the presence of humankind. The argument can be made that even if there is a tract of land that has not been physically touched my mankind, his influence has in some way affected it. Humankind can affect areas miles away without ever stepping foot on the actual land. Developing one tract of land can drive entire communities of animals out of one area and into another, thus affecting the new area’s ecosystem. Furthermore, mankind’s presence in certain areas has lead to changes in the vegetation of areas of wilderness that have never physically been visited by man. For example, the introduction of kudzu to North American lands has allowed the kudzu to spread like wildfire, affecting areas of land that man has never touched. Also, it can be predicted that mankind’s presence has changed the air quality enough in certain areas to affect the types of vegetation growing in that area. This is a valid argument because there is significant evidence that through mankind’s “chemical combustion of fossil fuels and use of chemical fertilizers for agricultural purposes” man is having a substantial impact on the global environment; this global environment being the atmosphere, and greenhouse gases (Wang, Yung,Lacis,Mo, and Hansen 685-690). Change in the balance of these gases has undoubtedly had some affect on the global atmosphere. So if the atmosphere spans through the entire globe and the atmosphere has been affected by mankind, then how is there anywhere on the globe that has managed to avoid the influence of mankind? Therefore, based on the first two definitions of wilderness there can not possibly be any areas of land that have not been affect by mankind. So, does wilderness not exist?

Furthermore, if wilderness is defined as an area separated entirely from the influence of man, then how could mankind possibly preserve it? If mankind were to actively preserve anything, then he is undoubtedly having some influence over it. In order to preserve an area man would have maintain the designated borders, and actively monitor the area to ensure that nothing is being changed. These two simple tasks still will have an influence over the designated area. In visiting Shackleford Banks, which is land that is being actively preserved by the state as a Nature Park, for one night, our group saw several 4-wheeler pathways, and benches left by park rangers that evidenced mankind’s influence over the area. In trying to preserve this area, the park rangers have turned this land mass into an area that, by definition, is no longer wilderness.

These definitions of wilderness simply do not work. They are seemingly too strict, and raise more questions than answers. There are still several different ways of defining and/or interpreting the idea of wilderness.

In the essay titled The Trouble with Wilderness by William Cronin, Cronin introduces an idea that mankind gave rise to wilderness. He states that wilderness “far from being the one place on earth that stands apart from humanity, it is quite profoundly a human creation—indeed, the creation of very particular human cultures at very particular moments in human history.” (Cronin) This statement at first seems quite contradictory. How could something that is so widely viewed as an object completely free of human influence in fact be a product of human creation?

Upon deeper consideration of this point it actually starts to make a lot of sense, and thus helps answer a few of the questions brought up by the earlier definitions. Before mankind existed everything was wilderness, and therefore nothing was wilderness. Without the rise of mankind, there would never have been any distinction between regular land and the wilderness. The development of mankind and culture and society is what eventually allowed the recognition of, and thus the creation of, wilderness. Without mankind there to recognize the wilderness and separate from it, there would be no wilderness at all.

Based on Merriam Webster’s and the Wilderness Act’s definition, mankind and wilderness are completely separate. There is no trace or influence from mankind on or in the wilderness. However, this is completely impossible! There is no where on Earth that is not in some way influenced by mankind’s presence on this planet. However, if we adopt Cronin’s principle that wilderness is a creation of mankind, it draws the question of how could mankind possibly contaminate something that it created (Cronin)? Not only did mankind create the wilderness, it also is very much an active part of the nature and the wilderness. As mankind changes, and develops, so to does the wilderness. This interpretation allows the possibility for mankind to preserve wilderness, by taking vast segments of land and simply not developing them. Mankind can actively preserve wilderness by simply leaving areas of land alone and allowing them to adapt and change as “Mother Nature” wills, not as man deems.

However, as fitting as this definition may seem, I still do not feel that it is adequate. I feel that the wilderness is a much more personal concept than anyone up to now has considered. For every definition of wilderness there is an exception or an adaptation that has to be made in order to fit each individuals view. I feel that trying to define wilderness using only physical characteristics is an impossible task. Instead I feel that a tract of land can only be deemed as wilderness based on how mankind feels when he is on it. To help explain what I mean I would like to take a minute to step aside from this discussion to do a little exercise.

Think back through you life. Have you ever felt lost or forgotten about? Has there ever been a time in which you found yourself in a place that no one else would find you? Have you ever been completely disconnected from society, and media, and mankind? Have you ever felt the anxiety of simply not knowing where you are; or where to go; or if anyone misses you? If you have never experienced this then just imagine such a time in your head. Now in this memory look around you. What do you see? Are there trees, leaves, bushes, grass, animals, and bugs? Or are there people, buildings, roads, and signs?

For each person the vision or memory experienced could be greatly different. Some people may have found themselves out in the woods or in the desert with no idea of where to go. Others may have found surrounded entirely by water, lost at sea, with no land in sight. Then, there could have been people, particularly children (I know I would have envisioned this as a child) who were lost in a big city, surrounded by a sea of people. Still others may have found themselves envisioning a place that I have not mentioned. Regardless the point remains that each person can feel lost in entirely different areas. It just depends on their personal comfort places and where they feel at home. It is this feeling of disconnection or “lost-ness” that I feel would deem an area to be the wilderness. It is this feeling of disconnection or “lost-ness” that I feel would deem an area to be the wilderness. (Noss) In this feeling of being lost, one begins to see things in themselves and find answers and connections to nature and life that are not readily experienced in other areas. I feel that Ansel Adams is describing this experience in his letter to Cedric Wright by describing a revelation about what love and friendship and art really are (Doty). It is revelations like these that can come out of the lost experiences in wilderness.

Through all the readings and wilderness emersion exercises I experienced during my Wilderness Writing class, I slowly developed my own definition of what the wilderness actually is. In the beginning of the year I was a lot more focused on the root word “wild” from wilderness. So my definition coming into this course was an area containing wild and untamed animals and plants. Through my readings and experiences in this course I have adapted that definition greatly. To me the wilderness is a vast area of land, physically separated from mankind and society, in which a person can experience the feeling of being lost. The purpose of the exercise above was to get you (the reader) to place yourself in your own wilderness (granted that being surrounded by a sea of people may be a bit of a stretch). Each person is going to have a slightly different view of what they consider to be wilderness. However, by defining wilderness simply as a vast area of land that is physically separated from mankind and society in which a person can lose themselves, we open the door to actually being able to create a Wilderness Ethic, and take a stance on wilderness preservation.

In The Land Ethic, author Aldo Leopold defines an ethic as both “a limitation on freedom action in the struggle for existence” and “a differentiation of social from anti social conduct.” (Leopold) Later in this piece Leopold goes on to say that in order to properly develop a Land Ethic mankind must extend their community to include the land and trees and water and animals. Not to consider them to be separate things but instead equal beings that deserve the same social reverence as other people. Mankind would no longer be the conqueror of the land but simply another member of the society that is the wilderness. This idea sounds really good in theory, however the fact is that there is no way that we can ever get everyone to honestly consider themselves to be equal to the land.

Leopold also raises the point that the main way to get more people to develop a Land Ethic and thus a preservation mindset is by spreading “more conservation education”. People need to know the facts about what we are doing to the planet. People need to experience the values of wilderness on a personal level. Wilderness has more than just the four categories of value (Social, Economic, Ecological, and Ethical) that were laid out by the Framework for Wilderness Values (Bergstrom, Bowker, and Cordell 49-55). As a matter of fact, in different piece, titled The Wilderness Debate, Lynda Roberts even went so far as to site studies that show statistics which “support the assertion that people find wilderness experiences to be intrinsically valuable (Roberts).” Being submerged in the wilderness provides a new appreciation for it. While one is in the wilderness, and feels lost to the world, they are able to think and reflect on themselves. This feeling of disconnect from the influence of society allows one to truly find who they are, outside of the pressures of everyday life in society. When a person experiences this “self discovery”, it places a value in wilderness. By allowing people to experience the wilderness and teaching them about its ecological values, we may be able to slowly spread a Wilderness Ethic that will help to preserve it.

With the new definition of wilderness we can now explore how we can go about preserving it. The answer is not easy or simple by any means. When you think about preserving the wilderness you have to start with the land. We need to start preservation with the remaining land masses that have been minimally affected by mankind. As a nation we have started this by creating National Parks trying to keep people from cultivating these lands. However, after speaking with David Mattocks, a trail maintainer and surveying technician atUwharrieNational Park, the idea of preserving the wilderness becomes more difficult than it may seem at first thought. He gave me a run down as to the specific duties that preserving a wilderness area actually entails. His duties range from maintaining existing trail qualities, to marking off and making new trails, to doing controlled burns, monitoring borders, and securing camp sites. David shared with me several of his personal experiences as well as stories he’s heard on from other rangers on the job. The biggest issue was one of people misusing the land. He told about several old abandoned moonshine distilleries he found on the protected lands, as well as a few marijuana fields that a few of his co-workers had found. People know that the national parks are being protected from development and are therefore misusing these lands for their own criminal acts. In order to stop criminal activity such as these we need more people like David, out searching and regulating the lands. However, with more people on the lands, we steadily take away from the wilderness of the lands.

In order to solve the problem the ultimate answer is simply education. People need to learn about the wilderness and its values both intrinsically and extrinsically. Children in schools need to be taught about wilderness preservation, and why it is important to them individually. We need to educate people in a way that gives them a personal connection to the wilderness and allows them to create their own Wilderness Ethic. This is what happened for me in my Honors Wilderness Writing Seminar. I created a personal bond with the wilderness, and it gained a new value in my life, thus my own Wilderness Ethic emerged. This new Wilderness Ethic taught me not only what wilderness is but also why and how it needs to be protected. I feel that more people need to experience the “lost” feeling in nature, and experience themselves in nature. That is the only way the mass public will be able to generate an effective Wilderness Ethic, and thus spur an organized effort for wilderness preservation.


Bergstrom, John C., J. M. Bowker, and H. Ken Cordell. An Organizing Framework for Wilderness Values. 4. State College PA: Venture Publishing Inc, 2005. 49-55. Print.

Doty, Jim. “Ansel Adams on Art” JimDoty.com. JimDotyJr, 28 Aug. 2006. Web 29 Apr. 2012. http://jimdoty.com/learn/adams_art/adams_art.html.

Leopold, Aldo. “The Land Ethic.” Sand County Almanac. (1948): n. page. Print.

Mattocks, David. Personal interview. 17 April. 2012

Noss, Reed. “Soul of the Wilderness, Biodiversity, Ecological Integrity, and Wilderness.” International Journal of Wilderness. 2.2 (1996): 3-7. Print.

Roberts, Lynda. “The Wilderness Debate: A Conflict Between Values.” University of Utah. 1. n. page. Print

The United StatesGovernement. Congress. Wilderness Act.Washington:,1964 Print.

Wang, W. C., Y. L. Yung, A. A. Lacis, T Mo, and J. E. Hansen. “Greenhouse Effects due to Man-Made Perturbations of Trace Gases.” Science. 194.4266 (1976): 685-690. Print.

“Wilderness.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster. Web. 30 Apr. 2012. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wilderness&gt;.

William Cronin, ed., Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature,New York: W. W. Norton &Co., 1995, 69-90;


Hebron Rock Colony

12 Apr

Daybook Journal (Hebron Rock Colony)

I thoroughly enjoyed today! Climbing on the rocks, and jumping from boulder to boulder was by far one of the most exhilarating things I’ve ever done. Being able to choose my own route and deem the challenge level gave me more freedom than normal hiking.

I loved being able to wander off the beaten path and choose a route that both challenges and excites me. Making leaps from boulder to boulder and trusting that my foot would not slip on the rock was a large test of courage and faith for me. I had to trust my instincts that I could make the leap, and trust that the rock was not to wet to stand on. I learned so much from myself and about myself with each and every jump that I made. Believing that I could balance on the rocks with large slants for long enough move over them to the next rock was a faith building exercise. The simple realization that I could not be certain of everything and that it was alright was a huge leap for me both physically and mentally.

Furthermore, I even had fun when things didn’t go right today. At one point I was set on pushing my personal limits to scale a huge rock instead of simply going around it. In staring up the face of the rock I immediately knew that I would not be able to make the climb with my pack on. So I attempted to toss the pack to Ryland, who was already at the top of the boulder (after having gone around it). However, when tossing the pack I failed to throw it hard enough to get it up high enough for Ryland to catch it. The pack rolled back down the side of the boulder and fell into the water. I then had to fetch it from the rapids before it was washed down the river. Thank goodness I was able to catch it! Everything in the pack was completely soaked… my clothes, daybook, lunch, reading book, everything was completely soaked. Even after this unlucky break, my day did not turn south at all. The joy of being in this place overwhelmed the disappointment of having lost at the stuff in my pack.

Thursdays activaties

20 Mar

The firemaking tutorial we were given on friday was very educational. Being a guy and naturally somewhat of a pyromaniac, this experience was really very fun for me too. I enjoyed doing the fire with the magnesium block the most personally. Mostly because it was the fastest and most rewarding of my efforts all day. Since thursday, I have already started two more fires with the block given to us at my house.

The biggest thing that I took away from Thursdays lesson was how to make a fire nest. I have always known that some sort of kindiling is always nessecay when building a fire, but now knowing exactly what should go in one gives me alot more confidence for firebuilding in the future. Not to say that I am an expert at it or anything, but I do now feel that in the case that I need a fire to survive I do feel like with my magnesium block I could build and sustain a fire without much trouble.

Now, that being said, I feel like the bow-drill method of building the fire is just completely aggravating. I knew going in that it would be the hardest method to get any production from but I didn’t expect it to be as hard as it was. I got so frustrated after breaking two sticks trying to make the bow that I almost gave up on it completely. Plus the lack of a good knife made it hard to make a sufficient notch in the board. I think if I was put in a survival situation, this method would be a absolute last resort for me.

The confidence I gained from this firemaking tutorial could be very benificial if I am ever put in that sort of situation. However, I still am hoping that I don’t ever need the skills I learned in thursdays lesson.

Picture Essay

21 Feb

Geocaching Experience

20 Feb

Let me just start by saying that geocaching really is alot of fun! I’ll admitt that our experience could have been more enjoyable had it not been raining and cold, however, it still really was pretty exhilarating each time we found the cache. The entire idea that this sport has been around for so long and I’ve never known about it just blows my mind. This is definitely something that I could see myself doing with my family on a regular basis.

During our search for the first cache, the one just off of 10th street, I became slightly discouraged. Especially after the first 20 minutes of searching the supposed site and not even finding a clue or trace of where it was. I felt like a treasure hunter who knows he’s really close to a huge treasure but just can’t figure out that last clue as to exactly where the treasure is! I wanted so badly to just turn over a leaf and have the cache (which I believe was a film capsule) be there in front of me. Just knowing that the cache was so close but never finding it nearly drove me insane. I’m just like Stephanie, I hate admitting defeat, but after nearly 25 minutes of searching that one 10 yard stretch of sidewalk and trees next to 10th street with no success, I was ready to just move on. I do, however, plan on going back and conquering that cache at some point in time.

The second cache was alot better. The weather started easing up and the entire search seemed to go alot smoother. I wanted so badly to be the actual person who first spotted the capsule that I tried my best to scan as much of the entire tree before anyone got there. I also remember asking Stephanie some clues as to where the capsule was located. When I heard Chelsea shout that she’d found it, I distinctly remeber my heart dropping and jumping at the same time. I was dissappointed that I hadn’t been the one who first located it, but also I was alot more excited about us finding it as a group than I had expected. Furthermore, seeing all the people who had found it before and left their distinctive insignia on the cache was pretty cool to see too.

The last cache was probably the funniest one all around. The rain picked back up as we followed the GPS instructions to the location but my desire to find the last cache over rode the annoyance of the chill from the rain drops landing on my hair and rolling down my face. Once we arrived at the coords for the last cache we immediately began vigorously searching the wall with at complete disregard for the what the “muggles” thought as they walked by us with inquistive looks on their faces. After our initial search came up with no reward we turned back to the website for more clues and reports from others who had previously located this particular cache. Without giving up hope each of us vigorously searched the wall for the tiny capsule. Just as I was starting to think that someone may have taken the cache and not put it back, Stephanie hopped up signifing that she had located the item. I rushed over to where she was looking eager to be the first student to find the cache, however in my haste I bypassed the slight crevice the capsule was wedged in. Phoebie followed behind me and spotted it no more than ten seconds after I moved from the spot.

All in all, geocaching turned out to be alot of fun! The weather seemed as if it was going to ruin the whole experience at first however after locating our first cache, we found that the thrill of the hunt much overrulled the chill of the weather. I plan on definitely partaking in some geocaching with my family in Greensboro over the summer.

Writers Memo

13 Feb

First I would like to start by apologizing for the delay on posting this memo. I’ve had problems with connecting to my email from my home internet router and just got it solved today. Again sorry for the delay.

The reason that I chose this topic is pretty simple. When exploring the possible ideas for this draft I was reading through my journal entries and our definition of wilderness invite was the one that stuck out most to me. Just the fact that everyones personal definitions from our descussions in class differed so greatly resonated with me as I read the my own definition. Thus, I decided to see how I could convert and expand on defining wilderness for this essay. In reading my essay you will find a sort of lack of focus and this is due to the fact that the topic seemed to keep changing for me as I wrote this essay. As I learned more about how other people define wilderness and how it is actually defined my ideas about the essay slowly changed. In rereading this essay I feel that I need to find a way to focus it more. Any suggestions would be nice.

As far as revisions go I plan on re-editing this dract to make it alot clearer and possibly add a few pictures to it, as well as clean up some of the grammer and spelling errors. I was considering throwing the pictures in as the examples of what people define as wilderness and where. Also I wanted create a better thesis that encompasses the whole essay and gives a little more direction for the rest of the essay. As said this far I have not posted any of these revisions until I am more comfortable with it.

I know that the essay is not perfect as far as grammer and sentence structure. I am cleaning it all up for the next draft, however I would like the reviewers to focus on more big picture things. Does anyone have any definitions of wilderness that I do not mention in the essay that they can suggest I add into the essay? Furthermore, I would like to know of any ways that I can clean up the essay in general. Does anyone have any suggestions as to how I can format the essay so that it flows better? Lastly, if there are any sentences that you see that can be rewritten to make things clearer? Alot of the ideas that I present in this essay are hard to get across without being completely repetitive. Any additional ideas would be greatly helpful for completing this essay.