Leave No Trace Trainers Leave Behind Awareness

Camp out in national and state parks and forest service campgrounds more than 200 nights a year. Get outfitted with gear and apparel from the likes of Coleman, MSR, Therm-a-Rest, The North Face, and SmartWool. Drive around the country in a spiffed-out Subaru Outback. Educate and inspire thousands of hikers, paddlers, climbers, and other outdoor enthusiasts on responsible outdoor recreation.

This is a real job?

It is for Tracy Howard and partner Kate Bullock (above), one of three Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer teams. (The two other 2012 teams are Tara McCarthy and Mark Ardagna and Quinn Laya and Frank Sturges.)

Spreading Outdoor Know-How

The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics (LNT) teaches individuals of all ages how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly and make good decisions. A favorite LNT saying: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” It's the most widely accepted outdoor ethics program used on public lands.

“People want to be responsible, but they don't always have the know-how,” said Howard. Each year, she and Bullock spend 10 to 11 months on the road spreading that outdoor knowledge to camp counselors, outdoor retailers, guides, youth organizations, and other outdoor groups, leaders, and general enthusiasts. Bullock and Howard hold workshops, lead trainer courses (both are LNT Master Educators), and attend outdoor events to raise awareness of Leave No Trace and its seven principles. (Disclosure: Trailspace is a corporate partner of LNT.)

“A lot of people we meet don’t realize LNT is an organization,” said Howard. Even she and Bullock weren’t familiar with the full extent of the nonprofit's work before they saw and applied to the trainer position listed on Craigslist about five years ago. However, both women had master’s degrees and extensive experience in education, lifelong passion for the outdoors and outdoor recreation, and friendly personalities. Now Bullock and Howard are in their fourth year as Traveling Trainers.

The work isn’t all scenic hikes and leisurely campfire chats though. Annually, the three Traveling Trainer teams, all couples, visit 40 to 50 states, hold events on 350 to 400 days (out of 1,500 to 2,500 requests), train 50,000 individuals, and travel 135,000 miles in LNT-emblazoned Subaru Outbacks. 

For example, this summer Howard and Bullock visited our local land trust in Belgrade Lakes, Maine, for an awareness workshop one afternoon, before heading to a western Maine middle school the next day, and then on to Acadia National Park. (Bullock and Howard are personally working on visiting all 58 of the country’s national parks and so far have visited 46.) 

Howard and Bullock take a proactive approach to public education, focusing on positive interactions over lectures and offering responsible alternatives when appropriate. They meet people where they are, at their experience and comfort level, and on the issues important to them. In the backcountry the issue may be human waste disposal, while in the frontcountry it's pet waste. 

It's all part of a spectrum, say Howard and Bullock. Whether you’re an outdoor first timer or a hardcore LNT advocate—someone “who would levitate out there if they could, drink their gray water, and pack out all waste,” in Howard's words.

LNT is not anti-campfire or anti-dog, but pro-responsibility. “Just be responsible," said Howard. "Know the alternatives and any locally specific programs and principles.” 

And in a society that avoids talking to strangers, Bullock and Howard opt for open conversation and communication to raise awareness: “Here’s the info, do what you will.” 

Just please don’t call them the nature or fun police. “It breaks our hearts when people say, ‘you take the fun out of the outdoors,’" said Bullock, herself a snowboarder, hiker, and biker, of battling that misconception.

Spending more than 200 nights a year in a tent means Howard and Bullock get to practice Leave No Trace daily. But they believe most people want to do the right thing too, if they just know what it is. And both readily admit to their own Leave No Trace mistakes.

“I quickly learned I was a wildflower collector, big time,” said Howard of her initial LNT education.

“Innocently enough, I used to be a heart-shaped rock collector,” said Bullock. “Now I'm a heart-shaped rock photographer.”

Now Bullock and Howard leave behind a positive outdoor influence.

Leave No Trace Gear

When Traveling Trainers work with staff at outdoor stores, they often end up discussing the role of outdoor gear in Leave No Trace practices. “You are teachers with the ability to sway people,” Howard and Bullock tell salespeople. “You can help people choose gear that's low impact, for example a freestanding tent.” Or perhaps gaiters for staying on muddy New England trails and preventing erosion and trail spread.

Leave No Trace doesn't endorse specific gear or brands though, lest people think they need certain products to follow the principles. “When people have Leave No Trace education, they are better informed to choose outdoor products that will actually help them Leave No Trace,” said Dave Winter, head of Strategic Partnerships and Outreach at LNT and a former Traveling Trainer himself.

Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer teams are fully outfitted for their work by sponsors though, “down to the cutting board,” said Howard.

"All of the gear is awesome and lasts for a long time," said Winter. "I was on the road in 2004 and 2005 and I still use a lot of the same gear."

So what do Leave No Trace Traveling Trainers pack in those Subaru Outbacks for a year on the road?

Here are some of the current offerings:

 

About Leave No Trace

The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics is a nonprofit organization that teaches people how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly. It's also one of the outdoor and environmental nonprofits that Trailspace supports. For more on Leave No Trace, its seven principles, and programs, visit lnt.org.

Filed under: People & Organizations

Related Content

Coleman  |  MSR  |  SmartWool  |  The North Face  |  Therm-a-Rest

Comments

ppine
21 reviewer rep
1,102 forum posts
August 30, 2012 at 4:03 p.m. (EDT)

Once you spend 200 nights a year camping it becomes a job.  It is not refreshing, and charming, it becomes tedious and uncomfortable.  I had an outdoor career with long periods of time in the field working.  I know it is hard for some people to believe, but it became tiresome and confusing.  My vocation and recreational interests overlapped too much.  I got time off and wanted to stay home.

Rick-Pittsburgh
1,631 reviewer rep
3,962 forum posts
August 30, 2012 at 4:21 p.m. (EDT)

ppine said:

Once you spend 200 nights a year camping it becomes a job.  It is not refreshing, and charming, it becomes tedious and uncomfortable.

This is solely dependent upon one's perspective. Many find such a journey rewarding in so many different ways. Of course this varies from person to person, objectives, etc, etc.

Also I would like to make a statement in regards to the first 2 words in your post... "Once you."

I personally do not feel it is fair of you to state what others like/and or dislike based on just your own personal experiences. 

How can one speak for the masses?

If I wasn't married or had the responsibilities I do(mortgage, etc.) I would completely go Jeremiah Johnson and live in a tent year round... Seriously. 

  I had an outdoor career with long periods of time in the field working.

Notice your keywords here "career/working." So yes under these circumstances one may most certainly deem extended time periods of being out in the backcountry as work because for you it was exactly that. Your career.

  I know it is hard for some people to believe, but it became tiresome and confusing.  My vocation and recreational interests overlapped too much.  I got time off and wanted to stay home.

You have to look at it with an open mind. Just because you at one time did not find being outdoors enjoyable for the reasons stated above there are those out there that may very well be glued behind a monitor, or on an assembly line and may very well dream of partaking in such a journey.

I personally commend these ladies as well as the others that are involved in teaching people who love the backcountry like myself the proper way to leave about as minimal an impact in my/our wake as humanly possible.

While you may have viewed being out there as a job I would be willing to place a wager to say that these trainers find what they are doing quite rewarding...

Its all about perspective.

 

FromSagetoSnow
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
3,329 reviewer rep
1,219 forum posts
August 31, 2012 at 10:35 a.m. (EDT)

I worked outside in college on a wildland fire crew.  Sleeping outside just became the new normal, people adapt to whatever comes along. 

I understand the point that making a job from a hobby is a great way to ruin a perfectly good hobby.  I can only imagine what certian types of doctors go through. 

Sounds like a fun job though.  I can't see it becomming a career but it could be a fun way to spend a year or two.  I have found that the "Fun" jobs (rewarding if you prefer) don't tend to compenssate really well so they are obviously doing it for the experience.  These kinds of jobs, like fire lookout jobs and park ranger jobs, though they pay poorly usually recceive thousands of applicants because of the fun factor that applicants see as being rewarding.  But really though does LNT apply that well to the state and national park car-camping or is it better applied to backcountry? Parks hire people to clean up garbage.  Car camping and LNT, to me, don't go as well together as LNT and backcountry camping. 

Neat article though.  I am glad that LNT exists.

whomeworry
102 reviewer rep
2,285 forum posts
September 5, 2012 at 3:57 p.m. (EDT)

ppine said:

Once you spend 200 nights a year camping it becomes a job.  It is not refreshing, and charming, it becomes tedious and uncomfortable.

Rick then replied:

You have to look at it with an open mind. Just because you at one time did not find being outdoors enjoyable for the reasons stated above there are those out there that may very well be glued behind a monitor, or on an assembly line and may very well dream of partaking in such a journey.

I have to agree with ppine, even the most fascinating pursuit becomes a routine if you spend enough time on that activity, especially if that activity takes a physical toll.  The Lyrics of Tony Banks, in the Genesis tune, Mad Man Moon, so eloquently addresses the realization that the grass is always greener elsewhere.

"Within the valley of shadowless death
They pray for thunderclouds and rain,
But to the multitude who stand in the rain
Heaven is where the sun shines."

My life long personal bane is pizza; I will Jones for it, then pig out on pie until I can't stand it, only to repeat the cycle when the memory of the experience needs a refresher course.  I used to be that way with camping and mountaineering, too, when the free ways of youth allowed me to indulge months on a single adventure.  Much as I enjoyed climbing high peaks, and covering geography on protracted treks, it seemed I always ended up enjoying all I could stand of the outdoors on those trips, and was all too glad to be back home when they concluded. 

Rick, you may be an exception to the rule, but most everyone who makes their living outside eventually grows weary of the hard labor and harsh conditions of this lifestyle.  It is probably a huge reason why homes and all that civilization stuff exists in the first place.

Ed

Peter1955
1,357 reviewer rep
1,339 forum posts
September 5, 2012 at 5:57 p.m. (EDT)

Once upon a time I went to school to learn to be a professional photographer.

I loved it - the creativity and the unique lifestyle. But one of my instructors told me that one day I would realize I was only taking a photograph when someone paid me to do it, and when that happened it was time to quit. That day came after about ten years, and it was a relief when I stopped. It was a valuable lesson.

Now I spend some of my time in an office, but every weekend out on the trails somewhere. For the time being, I don't have to take people up to the mountains just to make a living - I do it because I want to. I worry though, about how to stop my hobby from becoming just another job. If I can't figure it out, I could find myself losing much of the joy I now find on the trails. It's a hard one to solve.

Patman
REVIEW CORPS
755 reviewer rep
1,241 forum posts
September 6, 2012 at 8:33 a.m. (EDT)

Interesting conversation.

I met a fellow on the trail last year that had previously thru-hiked the AT. When I asked about the experience the first thing he said was “well, it’s a job”. He went on to explain that he found it very much like having a job; having to get up each day and keep trekking (lack of resupply will force a person to move eventually right?).

That being said, I still want to do it. Of course, I pull lots and lots of short backpacking trips and have never actually done a long trip; so maybe I’m in for a rude awakening? In any case, I desire to find out for myself. And despite what that fellow told me last year, it doesn’t necessarily follow that my thru-hike would be perceived the same way by me (to Ricks point).

 I’ve played guitar professionally, on and off  for my entire adult life. I did in fact find that playing in a “working” band wasn’t really what I thought it might be like. At one point I became quite disillusioned with it. The tedium of setting up, tearing down, rehearsals, dealing with drunks, dealing with crooked club owners, dealing with attitudes in the band, etc… eventually wore on me and outweighed the small “performance high” you get from the endeavor.

I still love music and playing guitar (I play every day that I can), but am not so eager to make it my livelihood as I once was.

Again, good topic and points made all around.

ppine
21 reviewer rep
1,102 forum posts
September 6, 2012 at 11:41 a.m. (EDT)

I am a big fan of awareness in general.  Outdoors awareness is something that has to be taught.  It has really only been around for 40 years or so, although conservation became a movement in the US by around 1900.  People in this country should be proud of our conservation and environmental achievements and make sure that young people (and newbies) understand the consequences of their actions.

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