Don’t Be That Hiker. Learn to Leave No Trace

Mount Jo trail photograph by Flickr user Melanie Lukesh

When you come to a mud puddle in a hiking trail what do you do? March right through? Go around the water to keep your feet dry?

When pitching your tent do you select a spot for its scenic beauty, regardless of proximity to shoreline? Do you diligently dig a perimeter trench so you can anchor your shelter? Do you build a fire ring or cut brush and limbs?

These actions impact natural resources: Skirting that mud hole erodes trails and compacts dirt on fragile tree roots. Camping too close to the water can pollute a pristine place, and beavering away to create a personal wilderness campground is not only disrespectful, it’s illegal in many places.

We’ve all heard “If you carry it in, carry it out.” But backcountry visitors—paddlers, anglers, hikers, climbers and backpackers—are strongly encouraged to take that thinking further, to leave no trace.

“The Leave No Trace program teaches skills to enjoy the outdoors safely and responsibly,” explain Dani and Roland Mott, traveling trainers for the Colorado-based organization that is sponsored by Subaru. “More importantly though, Leave No Trace aims to impart an ethic—a compelling outdoor ethic that will guide those who enjoy the out of doors in making positive decisions.”

They continue, “We believe that education is the key that will make a difference around the globe. However, education alone is not enough to change behavior. Behavioral change needs to come from somewhere deeper. There needs to be an internal ethic driving us to make good decisions about enjoying the outdoors responsibly and following through with our actions.”

Subaru/Leave No Trace (LNT) offers seven principles that cover trip planning and preparedness; respecting history, wildlife and the land; minimizing your impact; disposing of your waste; and being mindful of others on the trail. There’s solid advice for safe and happy camping, and as Dani and Roland put it, “It’s not what we did yesterday, it’s what we do tomorrow.”

The LNT trainers converge at the Adirondack Mountain Club’s High Peaks Information Center on Memorial Day weekend, offering evening sessions as well as informal chats at the Mount Jo trailhead. On Friday, May 23, at 8:00 p.m. there is a campfire talk at Adirondak Loj to introduce the philosophy, on Saturday night there’s a workshop at the High Peaks Information Center, plus the trailside conversations Saturday and Sunday.

From late spring through the fall Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) will present backcountry training of all kinds, from introductory sessions to advanced courses, the next on June 7 for people who wish to teach LNT skills. Ryan Doyle, outdoor leadership director for ADK, can be reached at (518) 523-3441 for details.


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