- Not enough people get outdoors to exercise, despite the health benefits and that most people enjoy the outdoors.
- The national and state parks are crowded and often booked up for months.
- Texas has a whole lot of land that isn’t terribly useful or scenic but is often very inexpensive.
- People love to take selfies in front of bucketlist locations.
- One of the most popular bucketlist locations is Machu Picchu.
- Not everyone has the means or ability to go to Machu Picchu.
Conclusion: Why has no one built a Machu Picchu in Texas?
Human-Made Destination Hikes
First, to be clear, let’s distinguish between destination hiking and non-destination hiking. It’s pretty obvious: destination hiking you are hiking to a certain end goal, like an archaeological site or mountaintop. Non-destination hiking, there is no “end goal”. In both types there might be things to see along the way. I don’t have any statistics on this, but I’m going to bet that destination hikes are far more enticing to the average person. Personally, I much prefer a hike that has a destination than one where I just walk around for hours in nature.
So what about human-made?
I define a Human-Made Destination Hike as a multi-hour hike to a creation made by humans which was built for the explicit purpose of getting people to hike to it. It’s essentially replicating the fun and enjoyment and challenge of hikes like the Inca Trail (which leads to Machu Picchu) but instead of relying on existing human-made structures or natural formations as a destination, the destination is made with the hike in mind.
Birth of the Idea
I once hiked to the south rim of Big Bend and upon my sweaty arrival I told my companions that I wished there was an ice cream stand there. Based on their expletive-laden response, I concluded that the idea was not popular with them.
While I was not proposing the construction of a sort of seaside resort on the south rim, replete with salt-water taffy and arcades, I’m pretty sure my friends would not have even enjoyed finding a dude pushing a cart of paletas.
I get it, they want to stand their in their high-tech REI gear, eating manufactured freeze-dried food, drinking out of a $85 Yeti bottle and feel a kinship with the early peoples. Ok, sure. Whatever. I’d like some ice cream.
But honestly, I also didn’t want to open pandora’s box of ice cream on the south rim. I just bought some when I got back to a store later that day.
But the idea wouldn’t leave me for the rest of the trip.
On the way back home to Austin, as I stared out the window at the many endless miles of nothing, I had a realization.
We could put the paleta guy out here and then go hike to him.
If we took some of this land that NOBODY wants to hike and make it worth hiking, then we have a net positive for everyone.
But then is a paleta guy really enough to get you out there to hike to him? Probably not.
We need an awesome destination like the south rim.
We need something that people really,really want to see. So much so that they will hike to it.
Like the lost city of the Incas: Machu Picchu.
And that’s when the idea for TexaPicchu idea was born.
It’s Not All About TexaPicchu.
In this post, I’m using TexaPicchu as an example to illustrate the wider concept of human-made destination hikes. But really, it can be anything that is interesting enough to get people out there.
Here’s a possible scenario.
You arrive somewhere out in West Texas. It’s flat and scrubby for miles. There’s an archway that says welcome to the TexaPicchu trail. The trail is fairly flat and is wide enough for two people to walk side by side.
Also at the entrance is an icehouse that suggest you not have a beer before you do the hike. There are maybe twenty other people. Maybe it’s a group hike, maybe it’s individual.
You start down the trail. About a mile in, you come across something interesting.
Maybe it is artwork. Maybe it is a puzzle. Maybe it is an interesting bench for a selfie. Maybe it’s a human-made hole in the ground. Maybe it’s a television playing reruns of Friends. But whatever it is, it has made the hike more interesting.
Then each mile you come across something else interesting. Maybe each stop is related. Maybe they aren’t. Maybe you can’t tell if they are related until you reach the destination. Maybe there is a task to do or a place to leave your mark. Maybe there’s just a pickaxe and you’re asked to make a hole deeper than when you found it.
Lots of photos are taken. There are places with shade along the way (this is Texas, after all), more surprises to be found, puzzles to solve, and some items are designed to create interaction between hikers.
About ten miles in you reach TexaPicchu. Or maybe twenty miles in. Or maybe two.
At the entrance to TexaPicchu they sell ice cream. Is it a paleta guy? Is it an ice cream stand? Is it a vending machine?
But what does TexaPicchu look like?
TexaPicchu looks like Machu Picchu. Except it is not as grand as Machu Picchu. Maybe it ia half scale. Or less. Or only part of a reproduction.
But clearly someone put a lot of work into it.
And you think wow it is crazy that someone built this thing way out here.
And you think wow it is crazy that you spent the day hiking to it.
You are allowed to explore it and take all the selfies you want.
Somewhere there is the ability for you to leave personal proof that you made it here. Because that’s what everybody wants to do these sorts of places.
Maybe that means you help add another brick to TexaPicchu. Now you and your brick are a part of it.
The Real Machu Picchu
TexaPicchu is just an example to get the point across here. If it were to actually be built, the diminutive, homemade nature of TexaPicchu should clearly indicate to most people that the thing is an homage to the great Macchu picchu and clearly helping support its status as one of the world’s most beloved and amazing places. Obviously, you’d want to make sure the real Machu Picchu is cool with it.