Making the Case for Keeping Secret Places Secret

secret beach
The not-so-secret Secret Beach on the Oregon coast. However, it was likely a secret at some point, right?Photo: Victoria Ditkovsky/Shutterstock

I started drafting this story as a travel guide—until I remembered an unsettlingly relevant email that found its way into my inbox a while back: “I loved your piece on Swissco in Colorado, but I kind of wish that you’d kept it a secret. Now it’s going to get crowded!”

I’m flattered, email friend, but I highly doubt that more than a handful of people—i.e., those who read my previous travel guide—were inspired enough to actually trek all the way out to the reservoir and go bouldering. If you were, however, let me warn you: My trip there ended with me running like a madwoman through a hailstorm, dunking my new boots in a creek in the process and shivering like crazy the whole ride home.

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Besides, there’s a wealth of information about the spot online already. I just added to it.

Still, I understand your concern. There’s something special about frequenting secret places only a few people know about. A hidden towpath, a hard-to-find climbing paradise, a revered highlining spot—half the reason they’re so idyllic is because they’re isolated.

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Share their guarded coordinates and you could turn someone else on to the joy you experience there. But you also run the risk of letting the proverbial “cat out of the bag.”

The case for keeping secret places a secret
Should secret places like this one be kept secret? Photo: Courtesy of Brandon Scherzberg

Case in point: a bubbling hot spring outside of Mammoth Lakes, California. Several years ago, my friend spent an evening chatting up a local until they reached that unspoken tipping point of friendship where secret spots come out (there may have been beer involved): “You’ve gotta go soak in the hot spring up the road; only people in town know about it. No tourists.”

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Truth be told, my friends enjoyed a night getting prune-y under the stars without a set of headlights in sight.

Fast-forward a bit: The hot springs are packed. Cars line a newly made parking lot, and there’s hardly room for a single butt cheek in the water. Looks like our friend got chummy more frequently than we’d bargained for.

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With so many of us armed with a GPS and a quick internet search at our fingertips, it’s a rapidly shrinking world. I’m all about spreading the wealth, but in the name of my own sanity and those stolen moments off the grid, I’m keeping a few secrets. Buy me a beer and maybe we’ll talk.

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