One word I’d like to hear more in 2021 is allemannsretten. Well, now that I’ve written it, I think I’d prefer to experience it more than say it. Allemannstretten translates from Norwegian, literally as everyman’s right, or loosely as freedom to roam. You can pretty much walk, camp, and otherwise go wherever you want in undeveloped (non-farm) places, public or private, in many Scandinavian countries.
Boaters already know this feeling- if they can float there, it’s allowed- even over those pesky privately owned tidelands in Washington state. You can go where you want, when you want, and even sleep on the water. But if you’re on foot, you’re out of luck.
Now if you live in the Pacific Northwest, and have a bicycle, your chance to experience allemannstratten goes up exponentially. Walking all day probably won’t take you far enough from your doorstep to any place you’d want to or be able to camp, legally or otherwise. But a few hours of pedaling will push you beyond the suburbs and into the mountains. Thousands of acres of firs, hemlock, and cedars await you in our national forests. Yes folks, you own this land and have the right to go pretty much anywhere that good sense dictates. This includes hiking trails, logging roads, and river banks. In addition, you can experience the joy of dispersed camping. Roll down your new favorite trail, find a spot that catches your eye, and carefully thread your way 100 feet into the woods. Voila: you have an amazing, free place to camp. As the forest service notes, “there are extra responsibilities required for this type of camp.” Like bringing everything you need and taking care to make your campsite invisible once you’re done.
In a life that increasingly requires planning, reservations, and permission to do so many things, wandering through the forest and stopping as the spirit moves me, releases pent up energy and frees the spirit from the constraints of quotidian life. There is no sense of time out there, not necessarily even a destination, just freedom.
As the warmer months come on, you bet that I’m going to get my dose of allemannsretten in the mountains. Perhaps I’ll see you there?