Practice Leave-No-Trace in Order to Maintain Our Wilderness
I love to spend the night in the outdoors. Whether that means a quick overnight trip to an established camping area, or a multi-day excursion through the roughest parts of the wilderness, I am there. While it is tempting to take the easy way out, and just use the land, it is imperative for all involved to practice leave-no-trace ethics. This way we can let those who come after us enjoy the wilderness just as much as we did. Here are a few pointers to help keep your camping trip fun and clean as possible.
Nearly all areas, regardless of which forest or wilderness you might be in, have established trails. These trails are not just made from the constant battering of feet, but they are maintained by organizations like the Montana Conservation Corps. The reasoning is that one well used path is better than a dozen lightly used paths. When you are hiking, stay on the path as much as possible. There are times when you have to navigate around a fallen tree, or cut off to use the facilities. When you do, tread lightly as to minimize your impact.
There are hundreds of maintained campsites around. If you are just driving up for a weekend, use one. Those that have bathroom and water services cost a few measly dollars per night for the convenience (per campsite, not per person). Others are free to use. These sites are well used, established in areas that can handle the impact, and provide you just as much comfort as any other site. When you are hiking in, look for an established campsite. There is no need to clear more area when there are plenty already cleared. Be sure to pitch your tent at least 200 feet from lakes and streams, these are delicate ecosystems and your unseen impact can have severe consequences.
Fires and Waste
Whenever possible, use an existing fire pit. Many established sites have iron pits set up, or at least an established rock ring. Don’t modify it, just use it. When gathering wood, keep in mind that it is illegal to break branches from a standing tree, even if those branches are dead. Dead and down trees are the only wood that should be used. After your fire has run its course, dispose of the ashes properly. This means digging a small hole, and burying them, then replacing the soil over the top of the hole so it looks as though nothing was done. Anything that you brought into the woods, take it out with you. Many items will not burn completely, so don’t even chance it.
The bottom line to everything is just to respect the area, your fellow campers, and the wildlife. If it would bother you to find a dirty campsite (which it should) then don’t leave a dirty campsite. If you don’t want an angry moose running through your picnic area, don’t taunt the moose causing them to run through other areas.
Camping is fun. Something about it gets us back to nature, helps us realize we don’t need all these modern gadgets to have fun, and lets us get some exercise. But if we don’t treat the wilderness with respect, future generations won’t know the wilderness that we know. So just remember to take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, and kill nothing but time.
You can learn more about Leave No Trace ethics at www.lnt.org.