Deconstructing Trailheads: Six Frames for Wilderness and a Rhetorical Intervention for Ecology

Casey R. Schmitt

This essay applies rhetorical analysis to the semantically loaded locations at trailheads, parks, and nature preserve entryways. Using the trailhead markers of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore as a field-based case study, I identify six common rhetorical frames in the trailhead location: Distinction; Danger; Leaving Behind/Leaving "No Trace"; Stewardship; Prescribed Activity; and Trace of Tactics. I discuss how each perpetuates a problematic everyday nature-culture divide. In analyzing the rhetorical functions of physical places, I advocate for embodied critical methods and revisions to the rhetorics of nature preserves and conservancies.

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Casey R. Schmitt is Assistant Professor of Communication at Lakeland College. He teaches rhetoric and communication, with a personal research focus in environmental narrative, ecological debate, and ethnographic fieldwork, especially in stories of wilderness and natural spaces.