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Editor’s Note: Take a Hike to the Polls

The results of this fall’s election could change the outdoors for a long time. Make a plan and make your voice heard.

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We hikers are used to making plans and following through: Once you’ve agreed to go on a hike, it’s sacred. If your partner flaked on your plans half of the time, you’d eventually invite them less and less, if not give them the boot entirely. Thankfully, in that way, voting is unlike hiking: Most of us who are US citizens are invited every time, even when we have a history of bailing.

In 1968, a hair more than 60% of voters turned out for the presidential election, and we haven’t come anywhere close to topping that participation percentage since. In 2016, 45% of us didn’t vote. There are certainly impediments to voting in states where voting in person is the only option, from getting time away from work and childcare to 12-hour-long waits at polling places. And I’d empathize if you feel your vote doesn’t make a difference. But clearly not voting makes less of one.

When BACKPACKER covers politics, there are always readers and Facebook commenters who tell us to stay out of it and stick to hiking. But the reality is that it’s impossible to separate the two: From shrinking Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, to authorizing drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, to passing the Great American Outdoors Act, the decisions our government makes directly affects our experience in the outdoors. There are many issues I believe every backpacker needs to care about and fight for, but I’m not here to opine on them today—just to urge you to get involved.

I received my mail-in ballot this week (in 2013, Colorado passed a law requiring election officials to mail ballots to all registered voters), and I’m literally turning the voting process into a hike by inviting BACKPACKER staffers who haven’t already mailed theirs to hike to a ballot dropbox with me. This not only makes an arguably mundane errand fun, but it creates some personal accountability, just as a hike down our favorite trail would.

So, here’s my ask. Join me in making a voting plan and taking it as seriously as a hike. Invite a friend if you can. And stick to it.

November 3rd could be one of the most important hikes of your life, and I’m personally inviting you. Don’t flake on me.