Open main menu

Use of the word 'REMOTE'.

In many of my posts I use the word 'remote' to describe wilderness areas that I consider remote in contrast to areas that I can drive to, or areas that have multiple trails with trail heads closeby or within a days walk.

Now, I backpack in the Southern Appalachians, which are full of towns, cities, and farms with primary, secondary, and improved roads.

I have always assumed the use of the word 'remote' was relative to the region in which you lived.

My use of the word remote means being in an isolated area, no farms, no roads, and possibly no trails. If I see nothing on my 15 minute topo but wilderness I consider that fairly remote.

I have often wondered if people who live or backpack in truly remote areas chuckle when reading my posts.

Anyway, thoughts?

I seem to recall that the demographics of subscribers of Backpacker magazine placed most of them in medium to large (>100K) cities.

I would suggest that most of the readers of this forum fit that model as well. Though I live in a smallish town (2000 pop) and there is easy access to woodland and rivers, it is hardly rural and certainly not remote. Like you, the word remote conjures up at least two days hike to an improved road, which is certainly possible to find in certain parts of NH and ME (logging roads are another matter).

Of course, my current version of remote would be laughable to someone in Oxford House, Manitoba. But the Oxfordian would probably also find it curious that anyone would seek to enter the backcountry just for enjoyment.

Remote for me is an area where hardly anyone goes to and is so far off the beaten track, that few can get there except by foot. I like "Wilderness" not places that people go to all the tie or can get to easily. There is actually many places like that in many places. Most people who say for instance go hiking in the Grand Canyon, stay on the trails and never venture father than nessessary to maybe go to the bathroom away from the trail. I have been to may places just a stones throw off the trails and route's and seen so many pass by within sight and never see me there. Thats why I call it wilderness, even when its not all that remote.

I live in a small town, which is by no means 'remote'. I've always viewed the term 'remote' as being, in part, the amount of effort required to get to the place that is being described. I think that some places feel remote becuase one could hike for a number of weeks and still not be in a 'remote location'. Places that I would consider remote would be: Isle Royale National Park or the places in Alaska that require a bush plane to get to or lots of ground travel, and don't have an easier way of getting there.

I think it's just as you said; the definition of 'remote' is relative to the user. This novice considers remote to be points on a trail inaccessible by mechanicanized terrestrial conveyance. Of course, this is a result of my own dwelling on the fact that if I royally eff-up I can't just wait on a ranger with a golf cart to tow me to safety. Your own confort level with distance from safety probably similarly lends much to your own definition of 'remote'.

I agree. "Remote" is very subjective to context. Anywhere in the lower 48 of the US couldn't really be considered remote if you compare that to places in Canada, and such places in Canada might not compare to being, say at the south pole, or in a coracle in the middle of the Atlantic or Pacific, or in the space shuttle in space. Obviously I exagerate, but just for ilustrative purposes.

For myself, If I am a day or more out from where I am likely to meet someone else, I consider it remote.

Speaking of remote,

I recently watched a National geographic episode on Siberia and it was claimed to have the most remote area anywhere.

The most remote i've been is Cranberry wilderness in WV,anyone hear of it?


Someplaces I consider to be remote are on trails, but way the heck in and on small trails, several days from the TH. Someplaces I consider remote may not be that far in, maybe half a days hike, but off trail and accesable only by "bushwaking", which is just a term as most of these places I am thinking of are above tree line.

Jim S

Someone needs to do a study and figure out how many road crossings the Appalachian Trail goes over. I backpack in the Southeast and there's no way you could consider it remote. There are roads pretty much everywhere. And then there are the "sky roads".

Wherever you are a helicopter can pass over(and don't forget the nearly endless jet airliners flying overhead), and so what qualifies as remote? The Grand Canyon has around 56,000 tourist helicopter flights yearly over that "wilderness". In the future if we ever get "individual flying cars", well, forget about finding any amount of remoteness.

But here's the thing: The worse the weather, the colder the weather, the bigger the blizzard, the more remote a place becomes. I remember during the Blizzard of '93 I was living out in the mts of NC and everything, literally, stopped. There were no jets, no traffic, no helicopters, nothing. It was like going back a thousand years. In a whiteout the backyard outhouse is remote. Thank God for that.

The use of the word "coracle" is remote...learn something new every day huh?

It usually takes a couple days of no other people for me to feel as though I'm in a remote area. As Tipi suggests, it seems to be a function of more than just space...

The use of the word "coracle" is remote...learn something new every day huh?

no, no, no! The use of a coracle is remote! (wonder how many people know what a coracle is).

Somehow, I can't imagine anyone brave or foolhardy enough to be in a coracle in the middle of the Atlantic or Pacific. I had enough trouble staying upright in the one some of us made on a calm lake early in the morning, much less with the waves and swells you encounter in the middle of one of the big oceans. But then, we used canvas instead of cowhide to make it.

use of "remote" in connection with "coracle" - There is a very remote chance of survival if you are in a coracle in the middle of the Atlantic or Pacific.

I am glad at least a couple people got the absurdity of my jesting illustration! :)

I hadn't the remotest idea what you were talking about, until I saw the pictures!

Ah, you poor lads have forgotten old St. Brendan the Navigator, of Ireland, who sailed his coracle (curragh) from the Emerald Isle to North America in ca. 550 AD.

Tim Severin repeated Brendan's voyage in 1976 in a replica leather curragh he made.

So does learning about a word and mode of transportation from a remote time period, in the comfort of ones own home, count as remote? :-)

Wow...I had seen a coracle in a movie once, but did not know much else.

Across the Atlantic? Not me!

Besides, around my house the alligators would mistake you for a juicy turtle.

Very interesting though.

And here I thought the remote was always down between the couch cushions....

Remote: Any area where I need to get out of my chair to change channels.
My remote is powerful; at least two days hike from the nearest road head qualifies as remote for me.


Remote...anywhere in Northern Ontario!

Wow. I was just jesting with the Coracle in the middle of the Atlantic bit. I think I have an entirely new concept of courage. That St. Brendan must have been one well salted cod after that was over :)

Remote...anywhere in Northern Ontario!

I can't argue with that.

It's an interesting concept, this "remote". I consider an area remote if it's quiet and there are no other people around. Most of my hiking/backpacking is in the mid Atlantic area, pretty high population density. Areas that in bad weather qualify as remote (don't see any other people) can nearly qualify as towns when the weather is fine. I like to go either off-trail (funny how along the AT very few people even bother to see what's on the OTHER side of the ridge!) or hit steep areas and old nearly forgotten or abandoned trails.

Right after the 9-11 attacks I went backpacking for a few days - just so I wouldn't have to listen to the paranoid rants on TV - what I found fantastic was the complete absence of airplane traffic. I suppose there were a couple A10 flyovers - but that had to be the most quiet couple of nights I'd spent in the woods of South Central PA.

I generally consider it to mean you are more than a full day's walk from the nearest paved or unpaved road.

Wow. I was just jesting with the Coracle in the middle of the Atlantic bit. I think I have an entirely new concept of courage. That St. Brendan must have been one well salted cod after that was over :)

I think the Good Saint's curragh was a good deal more seaworthy than the coracle shown in the photos. Here's a modern replica in action:


As noted above, it was used in a successful Kon-Tiki style crossing of the North Atlantic in 1976-1977.

In the same vein, I would suggest that Shackleton & Co's crossing to South Georgia in the James Caird, and subsequent crossing of the island's glaciated interior, would qualify as remote in a way that would be impossible to achieve today. Here's a Wikipedia page:

In the same vein, Fritjof Nansen and Hjalmar Johansen's leaving the Fram to attempt the north pole, knowing they had no chance of finding the ship again and would have to find their own own way south, put them out of touch with the rest of humanity for a year and half, most of it in bare-bones survival mode... now THAT's remote.

Getting a bit off the original topic, I know, but curragh vs. coracle got me going, and maybe a little historical perspective is useful.

Thanks for the info and Links, BigRed. I was familiar with the two craft types, and their distinctions- I had just let sleeping dogs lie as it were, but I love reading aout such topics, it's good stuff.

And now for something different (to quote Monty Python):

As several posts have said, "remote" depends on the circumstances to a large extent. Two weeks ago, a climber died on Mt Shasta in a scenario very reminiscent of the incident that caused a turmoil on VFTT's rec.climbing.useful, the predecessor of Trailspace's Climbing Forum (which still bears the subtitle of rec.climbing.useful, and I hope it always will). The 10th anniversary of John Miksits' demise is just a few days away (April 12, 2000). I am not sure how many on Trailspace were around on VFTT when that incident happened and how it galvanized a climbing community from around the world.

The recent incident on Shasta, like John's, shows how terrible things can happen and make even someplace within a day's round trip fall into the "remote" category. The two climbers were experienced and had, I believe, done Shasta before. It is entirely possible to drive to Bunny Flat, climb to the summit, and return to the Black Bear Diner in Mt. Shasta city during daylight hours on a nice April day. The record number of round trips in a day Bunny Flat to the summit and back is 12 (or more?), set by Bobby, the ranger who used to man the Sierra Club cabin at Horse Camp. Yet one of the climbers 2 weeks ago contracted altitude sickness near the summit. His partner tried to get him moving to descend, but had to dig a snow cave to protect him and head down for help (he made a cell phone call for help before leaving his partner). Due to weather, the body was not recovered until late this past week.The coroner's report identified HACE as the main cause of death.

In Zippo's case (we all called John "Zippo" because of his enthusiasm and bright personality), he and his partner were caught in a whiteout when descending from the summit. His partner's body was found (broken neck from a fall, as I recall) a couple days after they were reported missing by another party who had chosen not to go for the summit. John's body was not recovered until Memorial Day. Weather and a helicopter crash were factors in the long delay, and in fact, the body was found by several members of the VFTT rcu community who had gone to Shasta specifically to continue the search that the rangers had discontinued. Tje coroner's report said that Zippo died from hypothermia.

In both these cases, the climbers involved were experienced. Zippo had climbed Shasta 9 or 10 times by several different routes.

Even here within 5 or 10 miles of my house near the Stanford University campus, people have vanished with their bodies later being recovered (in one case, a year later) an easy walk from a paved parking lot. One of my favorite hiking trails (along which I have 7 geocaches) has no cell phone coverage for most of its length. People often hike this trail from the Foothill College parking lot, and people have disappeared from this trail. If someone has an accident or sudden illness along this trail, it is likely to take a couple of hours before medical help can arrive. Is this trail remote? Yes and no - planes heading for San Francisco International Airport enter the approach pattern right overhead. Helicopters often fly over the area (there are known and suspected "agricultural" areas in the nearby canyons), though because of the dense woods (mostly oak and madrone), there are no helicopter landing spots along the trail itself. In these same Santa Cruz Mountains, and further south in Big Sur, there are many places within a couple miles of not just paved roads, but major highways that you can go and spend a week or two without seeing anyone (including some official backcountry campsites). And yes, we have bears, mountain lion, coyote, bobcat among the larger predators, as well as hundreds of deer. And right now, a riot on the hillsides of gorgeous wildflowers.

"Remote" is relative.


As you know, the terms "coracle" and "curragh" are synonyms meaning "boat".
coracle - 1540s (the thing is described, but not named, in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle from 9c.), from Welsh corwgl, from corwg, cognate with Irish curach "boat." - or

Brendan, purportedly, undertook a jaunt into unknown waters, far from the sight of land. He never knew where he was, in relation to known land, nor what land - if any - was ahead. That was remoteness such as we can never know again on this planet.

The size of that man's coracle is of little moment.

November 25, 2020
Quick Reply

Please sign in to reply