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Yesterday we hiked up Saddleback Mountain here in Maine and were sitting on top, eating our lunch, when we noticed a large spread out group of adults and teens (probably 8-10 total) plus a dog coming across the alpine ridge toward the summit. Unfortunately, the first five kids were ambling way, way off the trail trampling over the fragile plants and flowers. They were wandering around like it was their own personal meadow. None of the adults with them seemed to notice or care (I assume they didn't know any better). All I could think was, ahhhh!!!! They're killing the plants!
So, here's the question. Have you ever approached another hiker to educate them on the proper/expected way to behave on the trail? If so, how did you do it? What was so egregious it made you do this?
It's one thing if you're already in a position of authority, like a ranger, but for some random hiker to walk up and say something I think is very hard. I'm pretty non-confrontational. At the same time, I assume that people usually just don't know better and wouldn't choose to do the wrong thing if they did. So, what would you do? Do you think there are nice, acceptable ways to inform a stranger? When are you morally obliged to say something? (obvious safety issues, I'd say) Has anyone ever said something to you?
In our case, my spouse walked over and chatted with the kids and told them how fragile the plants are and why it was necessary to stay on the trail up here. He was nice about it and we were extra friendly when we passed them again. Generally, we don't go around lecturing others and pointing out things we'd do differently. Usually, we just try to be friendly folks. Still, it can seem very awkward when there's something blatantly wrong happening.