Earlier this week I was reading an open letter written by a national park volunteer. In the letter, the volunteer pleads with the public to avoid “marking their territory” within protected lands. During her written plea, she makes the argument that if you are leaving your trace behind not only are you damaging the earth, but you could quite possibly be interrupting a separate individual’s conversation with their natural surroundings.
As an individual who seeks such conversations while in nature, it is a great disappointment when I find graffiti on the trail. Though I have no doubt that “Katie & Danny’s” love will last “4-ever,” I do not care to imagine them both on my trail with me. This is my time to pursue nature and its great leadership. This seems like an appropriate moment to discuss the teachings and disciplines of “Leave No Trace.” These seven principles are designed to encourage users of the outdoors to have a code of ethics and respectfully maintain their environment for themselves as well as for those to come.
Plan ahead and prepare. When approaching this step, use common sense. This principle expects you to not only look up the weather before your excursion, but also be able to pack in such a way that you can minimize your potential waste. This is the time to also assess the skill level of everyone that will be involved. This will ultimately help formulate your regulations and concerns for the group members.Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces. While evaluating this principle there are a few things to consider. It is suggested that you protect riparian areas by camping no closer than 200 feet from any waterway. When using this standard it is often discussed that a good campsite is found and not made. Avoiding as little contact with unharmed vegetation is key. The entire idea behind Leave No Trace is to leave as little impact on the terrain as possible.
Dispose of Waste Properly. If you pack it in, you better be prepared to pack it out! Human waste is to be disposed of by digging a 6 to 8 inch hole in the ground. You must also be cautious that the waste is at least 200 feet from any waterway or campsite. Once the hole has been utilized, camouflage the area.
Leave What You Find. For the love of Mother Nature, do not build rock structures! By building such an arrangement, you may be responsible for breaking up the conversation between an individual and their sacred time with the great outdoors. If you are tempted to remove something from its sanctified spot, maybe instead, you take a photograph.
Minimize Campfire Impact. When a fire is permitted, use existing campfire sites. If one is not available, attentively make your impact small and containable. Once the fire is no longer needed, make sure the fire is completely washed out and cool to the touch. Finally, scatter the ashes.
Respect Wildlife. This seems simple enough… Yes? Do not approach wildlife. Do not feed wildlife. Responsibly protect wildlife by conscientiously storing your rations and securely stowing trash in an appropriate place.
Be Considerate of Other Visitors. This covers everything from yielding to others on the trail to reducing noises during your time in the outdoors. There is no doubt that the Golden Rule applies here. There is nothing worse than trying to experience silence when there is a parade in town.
Now it is my turn to make a plea. Please reverently do your part to make sure that this land is preserved for those enjoying the conversation.
Until we meet again,