Featured Hiker: Aldo Leopold (& His Bench)

Featured Hiker: Aldo Leopold (& His Bench)

Aldo Leopold on a bow hunting trip in Northern Mexico, 1938 (Public Domain)

Believe it or not, I’d meant to celebrate Aldo Leopold’s birthday here, in this space. His birthday was on January 11th. As I write this, it’s March 27th. It’s just been that kind of a year so far, which is to say a good one! Why Aldo Leopold? Because he is the secular saint of conservationism, particularly in Wisconsin—where we live and work. Sometimes I forget that people know about him past our borders, his influence is just so intense here. He’s best known for his book, A Sand County Almanac, which is a precisely observed meditation on a person’s relationship to their natural environment. If you’ve ever taken course on environmental science or sustainability, I’d bet a container of hummus that it was on the syllabus next to Rachel Carson. Its observations are so precise that ecologists continue to use them as a way to gauge environmental change over time. Its environmental ethics are so profound that its impact has shaped the world we live in. Further his thinking helped give birth to conservation and the modern environmentalism movement. It’s no accident that Earth Day can trace its roots back to the Badger state. Sand County Almanac is a book that will never feel dated.

And he was one heck of a furniture designer…

Here’s what you will find in the ‘gusset’ of every pouch of uBu’s Hiker’s Hummus:

Diagram of the Aldo Bench

There is something supremely admirable about the simplicity and economy of this design. At least in Wisconsin, they are ubiquitous. You see them on playgrounds—donated by parents tired of sitting crosslegged on blacktop—along trails, in parks, and around fire pits. Until recently, I had no idea that they had been designed by Leopold, or that they may not be as common in other places. When I thought about what I might put in the gusset (it seemed a shame to waste the space), plans for the Aldo bench were the first thing that came to mind. They are the best kind of technology.

Pro Tip: Aldo designed these so that you could sit on them backwards to prop your elbows up on the cross bar making it easier to watch birds and other living things through your binoculars.

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