In our last newsletter we discussed how one way a community can be connected is through a shared value system. One of my favorite examples of this is the “Leave no trace” ethos amongst outdoor recreationalist. It is a set of guidelines founded in the belief system that we have the responsibility to take care of the lands where we recreate.
With gyms closed more and more of us are using the outdoors to exercise and relieve stress – both in local parks and state lands. In order for these principles to work it is important to review how we can do our part to recreate responsibly using the “Leave No Trace” principles.
- PLAN AHEAD AND PREPARE. Do your research! As my dad always said “If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.” Entering the wilderness unprepared not only puts you in danger it also puts those at risk that may need to rescue you. Especially right now; keep trips inside your comfort zone and go prepared.
- TRAVEL AND CAMP ON ESTABLISHED SURFACES. I know it may be tempting to step off trail to avoid people (or a puddle of water) but the plants and wildlife don’t appreciate this choice. Vegetation, especially at altitude is fragile and can take years to grow inches. Don’t cut switchbacks this can lead to erosion.When we are allowed to camp again – place your tent in established sites 70 or more feet from a water source.
- DISPOSE OF WASTE PROPERLY. This is true for anywhere you go – not just the wilderness. Pack-it in pack it out! This includes apple cores, orange peels, TP and compostable dog bags. Pro tip: make sure you have a bag with you for trash. Follow proper poop and dishwater disposal practices. With many trailhead bathrooms closed right now you may be more likely to have to go in the woods. Do your research.
- LEAVE WHAT YOU FIND and how you found it! If its cool – take a picture and move on. It’s not okay to take your neighbors garden gnome nor is it ok to take unique rocks from public lands. Go prepared so you can avoid tagging trees and making rock piles.
- MINIMIZE CAMPFIRE IMPACTS. I know we all enjoy a good fire but at this point campfires should only be in fire rings in your backyard or established campsites. If you need to have a campfire in the backcountry do your research on how to do this properly and follow local laws. And don’t burn your garbage!
- RESPECT WILDLIFE (and keep your domesticated animals domesticated). Observe animals from a distance. Do not feed animals – not even chipmunks!! Keep your dog on a leash or by your side. Your dog should not be running off the trail or chasing animals.
- BE CONSIDERATE OF OTHERS. Remember sound travels far in the wilderness. Avoid playing music or traveling in large groups. Practice physical distancing (but stay on trail). If a parking lot is full consider a different hike or going home. Further, most of our outdoor recreation areas are surrounded by small communities that don’t want our coronavirus. Plan ahead, avoid making stops in other communities, wear a mask and practice social distancing if you have to stop.
If you would like to learn more about Leave No Trace Principles and how to prepare for hiking, both physically and logistically. Consider joining our 6 week hiking course or post your questions below.