I’ve been asked so many times what “leave no trace” means. When I’m talking to folks about hiking I’m usually asked something along the lines of”: Does it mean hike while pulling a branch behind you to erase your footprints? Does it mean training in Ninja skills to evade detection and walking across rice paper without breaking the surface? The term is often misunderstood and often used to mean anything the writer is thinking about. The National Park Service puts out a DVD on the subject. There is a website dedicated to just this topic … its LNT.ORG . I could write for hours about the subject but I’ll begin this topic with a few generalized thoughts and leave the detailed explainations and opportunities to become involved to LNT. Some basic but vitally important points are simple common sense. 1. Don’t urinate or defecate near a water source – the common guideline is 100-200 feet. Don’t forget to dig a hole … carry a trowel for just this purpose. In the dead of night this can be a bit tricky and for some a bit scary. Its easier to scout a path and an easily identifiable spot for you to do your business in the daylight as apposed to waiting until midnight to realize you haven’t picked a spot. I’m in my 60’s so I have a bladder the size of a peanut and although it might be a simple slip out of the tent for a quick pee – this adds up to a serious threat to environmentally sensitive lands. Of course, don’t forget to bury and then step on the raised mound to truly leave no trace. Animals mark their territories with body fluids. Don’t threaten them with yours or they may come visit your tent. 2. Bury your trash including all wrappers, cans, leftover food, drink packets etc etc. There is nothing worse than hiking onto an absolutely beautiful overlook, open meadow, overhanging tree canopy to find cigarette butts, candy wrappers, food tins … it will make your blood boil. 3. Camp Fires – although pretty and they have a purpose to keep away the creepy crawlies – for the most part they are truly useless and often are a horrible waste of resources. If you have to have one – use only “wood you find on the ground” don’t chop, hew or otherwise cut down anything living. It is a true marker of our human hubris – our pride and the need to show we rule nature. Be one with your camping space – not only will it serve you but others for weeks, months and years to come. 4. Hammocks, Tents and lean-tos: If… you hammock, use a large enough rope with something between the rope and the tree to keep from marking and injuring the tree. If you use a tent, place your footprint on grass or readily renewable fodder. In Florida we use spanish moss pulled from trees (not that found lying on the ground -chiggers), leaves are nice – try to avoid pulling up moss, ferns and plants to make things a bit more comfortable for you. If you have to make a shelter because its suddenly snowing and your tent went down river during your last river crossing – again, use dead wood. So in a nutshell you can see the forest for the trees. Leave no trace – just means – don’t be stupid … you are not the first, nor will you be the last person on whatever trail you are following. Leave it the same way you found it … unless its been visited by a jerk … then clean up after the moron and know that its better than when you found it.
Remember - Leave No Trace
TAKE A HIKE
No matter who you are with, no matter what trail you take; in the end, you can only hike your own hike. You walk alone at your own speed; rarely do you walk with any trail mate for an extended time. The point is finding yourself while conquering the terrain. This may be daunting at first. You’ll find yourself staying awake an extra hour or so wondering if you hung your food bag; put out any fire completely – just like home – did you put out the cat, turn out the lights. Those feelings will evaporate quickly as you gain confidence in your abilities and you gain experience. Spend as much time learning about being on the trail as you spend on the trail and you’ll come home a more complete person than when you left. Kinder, happier and have a treasure trove of memories.