I cringe, and sometimes cuss, when I am walking on a trail and I know the person behind me is avoiding the mud puddles in order to keep their shiny new boots dry and clean. What they do not understand is that with every step off the path they are crushing an entire eco-system. The narrow foot paths that lead through the marshes become a wide trough every time we step aside onto the delicate eco-system that surrounds the path. Our weight, the tread of our boots our hiking poles and more dig into this system of topsoil which houses an enormous amount of plants and wildlife that keep other areas from eroding. Our single step, though we may think isn’t too remarkable, can destroy the delicate bonds between the plant life and the ground on which it is holding. Because of this, erosion begins and the ground beneath the surrounding areas also begin to melt away from the plants holding it intact. Leave No Trace provides a framework for outdoor recreation decision making, which is summarized in the following Seven Principles:
- Plan Ahead and Prepare: Poorly prepared people, when presented with unexpected situations, often resort to high-impact solutions that degrade the outdoors or put themselves at risk. Proper planning leads to less impact.
- Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces: Damage to land occurs when surface vegetation or communities of organisms are trampled beyond repair. The resulting barren area leads to unusable trails, campsites and soil erosion.
- Dispose of Waste Properly: Though most trash and litter in the backcountry is not significant in terms of the long term ecological health of an area, it does rank high as a problem in the minds of many backcountry visitors. Trash and litter are primarily social impacts which can greatly detract from the naturalness of an area. Further, backcountry users create body waste and waste water which requires proper disposal according to Leave No Trace.
- Leave What You Find: Leave No Trace directs people to minimize site alterations, such as digging tent trenches, hammering nails into trees, permanently clearing an area of rocks or twigs, and removing items.
- Minimize Campfire Impact: Because the naturalness of many areas has been degraded by overuse of fires, Leave No Trace teaches to seek alternatives to fires or use low-impact fires.
- Respect Wildlife: Minimizing impact on wildlife and ecosystems.
- Be Considerate of Other Visitors: Following hiking etiquette and maintaining quiet allows visitors to go through the wilderness with minimal impact on other users.
One of the things I love most about trekking is the solitude and peace and quiet. That love of mine is not shared by all. There are many folk that travel in packs or pairs and for some reason they have talking competitions. Apparently each person’s opinion is the one that matters most, and in order to be heard they each start talking louder and louder. Dear human, “Shhhhhhh!” I get that some folk are out there for just exercise and perhaps they are so out of touch with nature that even being IN nature is still foreign, but talking that much does nothing for building your endurance and lung capacity. Slow and deep breaths please.
See that pretty lady slipper growing there? Yes, see it, but please leave it there. It is not there for you to covet and take home. It is there to live its existence peacefully without interruption. Do you need an explanation to what happens when humans are plucked out of their own environments and forced to be someone else’s creation?
If I see you throwing anything on the ground that wasn’t a twig that you just picked up, I will follow you to your car and lecture you the entire way on what littering does and how much of a lack of a respect you must have for yourself that you are projecting onto others. And believe me, I can keep up. I’m sorry, but this land is not your land, and this land is not my land. It belongs to the redwood forests and the New York highlands. We are just custodial travelers along its pathways. Just sayin.