I am not one to rant online, but this one pushed my “Someone is wrong on the Internet” button. And the unnecessary comma after “alone” is the least of it.
Stunningly beautiful though it is, this photo’s location is a poor choice to illustrate the text. Places no one has ever been? Many people have been to this place, and I’m one of them. It is Hawksbill Crag (aka Whitaker Point) in the Ozark National Forest in northwest Arkansas. It is widely considered the most photographed rock formation in the state (and with the Ozark and Ouachita mountain ranges and Buffalo National River, we have a generous share of scenic rocks).
The day I was there, I was neither following the crowd nor walking alone. I was hiking with my best friend. It was winter. We got to see this place (and eat our picnic lunch atop this the point, safely farther back than the person in the picture); we also got to see for the first time, and marvel at, frost flowers, though we didn’t learn the name for them until later. We also met people coming and going.
That person wasn’t walking alone either. Someone was nearby, taking this picture.
So I’ll quibble with the text, too, taken out of its context and floated precariously in the air there. It’s true, of course, that following the crowd can be the easy choice, a limiting choice, a constricting choice. And it’s true that plenty of scientific and artistic and medical and manufacturing breakthroughs occurred because someone veered off path. But those pioneers, visionaries, eccentrics — if they didn’t have someone alongside them at the time, they told: “Look what I found! Come see.”
Finding yourself someplace no one else has ever been can be dangerous. A lot of people have fallen off of Hawksbill Crag. A lot of them have died.
One rule of hiking is to take someone with you, or to tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back. One benefit of getting lost or stuck in a remote place that someone else has been to (and I am speaking figuratively now) is that, instead of standing above you and looking down and shouting, “What the heck happened? Are you OK?” someone will appear alongside you and say, “It’s OK. I’ve been here too, and I know the way out.”