Trail Etiquette Refresher, Leave No Trace Principles

9:26 p.m. on April 16, 2013 (EDT)
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Trail Etiquette Refresher, Leave No Trace PrinciplesPosted on April 15, 2013

I’m starting to get a bad case of trail fever. The days are warming up, the snow is gone and I am starting to daydream and plan some of this year’s hikes.

Unfortunately, I also start recalling some of examples of people being inconsiderate or perhaps, just ignorant on the trail. You know, the people who leave trash behind or worse yet, put food in the pit toilet at your Boundary Water camp. The bears love that don’t they.

All that got me thinking about The Leave No Trace Seven Principles and I couldn’t remember them all. So, I got on the google machine and went to the Leave No Trace Center For Outdoor Ethics website for a refresher.

They do great work, you should consider showing them some love with a donation.

How many can you remember? That first one, “Plan Ahead and Prepare” is the one I got hung up on.

Here’s the list:

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare

  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
Dispose of Waste Properly

  4. Leave What You Find
Minimize Campfire Impacts

  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Below is some more detailed information.... click here for the full article

10:26 a.m. on April 17, 2013 (EDT)
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Maybe the most important one is to stay clear of water sources.  Fifty yards or 150 feet would be a good minimum.

Ettiquette has to be learned, it is not inate for most people.  There is always that awkward moment when you realize someone has no ettiquette and it is your job maybe to teach them.  It takes a lot of tact to be taken in a positive way.


11:08 a.m. on April 17, 2013 (EDT)
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On the topic of etiquette, how do you guys feel about shaking hands when in the backcountry? I’m not phobic but…

 I don’t like doing it even when I’m near a sink let alone on some section of trail that might be far from a water source. So you are left with using a sanitizer if you have one, sacrificing your drinking water and using extra soap, or going forward with the awkward rejection (which is what I do).

I don’t trust the sanitary habits of other people in the backcountry and the “fecal oral route” is a primary transport for many pathogens.

The Hepatitus A virus can show no symptoms for weeks in a person who is highly contagious.

Likewise Norovirus can remain in a person’s feces for days after their symptoms have gone.

And then there is bacteria: both Salmonella and Shigella can remain in a persons feces for weeks after their illness has passed.


11:40 a.m. on April 17, 2013 (EDT)
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Patman: Gloves? It works for Howie Mandel. :)  I formed the habit of keeping my hands away from my face (mouth and eyes especially) back in my bookshop days. Money is filthy. We kept hand sanitizer by the till.

About LNT: I would like advice on best practice in the sub-alpine barrens I sometimes walk. When there is no trail, my route choice is either stunted shrubby plants (crowberry etc), or lichen-covered rocks, or 'live earth' - the thin black organic matter that is the nearest thing to soil up there. Where will I do the least damage?

10:24 p.m. on April 17, 2013 (EDT)
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Do a knuckle bump.  I belong to an organization, that during the weeks preliminary to a major competition, discourage touching hands.
Elbow hits happen at times as well.

It is well you are concerned about transmission of critters, but don't loose site of the fact you probably haven't gotten many run-away major pathogens (other than a cold) from shaking hands or *gasp* kissing. It surprises me just how healthy most are even on popular trails with not even the shadow of good health habits.

I've been stymied by people - hordes of them - relaxing, lounging, sleeping, eating on the trail most often, it seems, at passes, where they congregate.  I've toiled up trails on a fairly steep sided mountain and to have to come to an impassable stretch of trail taken up by a boyscout troop and their leaders who really give little thought about making way.  Then to wait for them to come to a groaning and complaining upright position and 10 mins to get on the road.  They go just fast enough in between collapsing spasms that I couldn't really pass them.  Finally I managed to get above trail and kick some stones down on them. 
It was difficult to suggest that they manage their herd better after they started yelling at me to be more careful.  Heck, I couldn't have placed those rock hits any better than if I had planned it.

Although I can never remember who has the right of way (except for pack animals) up or down, I do remember the jerks that don't step aside so you can both pass.

Technology.  There is nothing like being rudely wrenched back to the present after being on the trail for many days - seeing only two others during that time - and get to a high point (like Whitney) and see everybody with their cell phones out trying to get their mom to guess where they are.  Civilization is less than a kiss away from a cell phone.

11:08 a.m. on April 18, 2013 (EDT)
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Oh no cooties.  Some dirt and germs are normal.  I will shake hands with anyone.  It is an important ritual.

8:53 a.m. on April 19, 2013 (EDT)
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Although I can never remember who has the right of way (except for pack animals) up or down, I do remember the jerks that don't step aside so you can both pass.

I've always gone with truck driver rules; uphill has the right of way and if you are holding up a line of traffic use the turnouts early and often.

On the theme of this thread; Leave No Trace Principles can be shortened to Leave No TP  I expect to see signs of animals pooping in the woods but not signs you've been pooping in the woods.

11:33 a.m. on April 19, 2013 (EDT)
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  • @patman. You forgot about never touching animal scat, either. Wolf and coyote feces carries tapeworms. 
  • I don't shake hands on the trail, but that's just habit, not a phobia. I KNOW my hands aren't too clean!
  • As for whether up- or down-hill has the right of way, I've found that people going uphill are more likely to want to take a break to let the downhillers pass than the other way around. 
  • And to add to the seven points raised about LNT, the 'Pack it in, Pack it Out' one is the most important. Theoretically, that applies to your own feces, as well as the toilet paper and every other piece of garbage. There are a number of gadgets out there meant for that purpose. 
  • IMHO, youth group leaders are the worst at group management. I've torn strips off church group leaders letting their kids shortcut on switchbacks, feed the animals, and do every other thing that's specifically forbidden in Parks regulations and in the tourist guides. Some Scout troops are even worse, tearing down bush in a National or Provincial Park to demonstrate shelter-building! By and large, the entry-level leaders mostly seem to be wannabes who get into it because their own kids are involved in the group. They forget about keeping the group together and often leave someone far behind. They have no emergency gear and no training in what to do in an emergency. There are exceptions; Boy Scout leaders can take some good training, as can the paramilitary cadet groups, but it is all too easy for any well-meaning adult to just get a bunch of kids together and head for the hills. In the  Canadian Rockies, the leaders of 'custodial groups' are REQUIRED to take a two day safety course to take kids into the mountain Parks during the most dangerous times. That includes phys ed teachers and summer camp councilors, and the leaders of cadet and scout groups. 
9:07 p.m. on April 19, 2013 (EDT)
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As a scout leader, a lot depends on training and the example set by leaders and older Scouts.  By and large, I think most youth are naturally inclined to LNTP, but it's up to us to set the right example. Packing out what you bring with you is one of the first things we teach, as is the rule of packing out everything you see, if it will fit in the trash bag. Old tires and projection TVs found 5 miles from the trail head are exceptions (yes we've seen one) 

Besides trash, my biggest per peeve are folks who decide the campsite should double as a night club and stay up all night partying around a huge bonfire.  That seems to violate the "considerate"  principle. 


9:40 p.m. on April 19, 2013 (EDT)
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speacock said:

Do a knuckle bump.  I belong to an organization, that during the weeks preliminary to a major competition, discourage touching hands.
Elbow hits happen at times as well.

But, Steve, IIRC, you shook my hand when we met at Onion Valley after I'd been on the trail for ~25? days! lol (but I might have missed you turning around to studiously disinfect your hands, haha) :)

But getting back to the OP's question - I find the LNT stuff interesting, because the principles it promotes are just what I do by default anyway.  It's not that I'm trying to "follow LNT", it's just how I like things to be.

5:05 p.m. on April 20, 2013 (EDT)
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peter1955 said:

  • As for whether up- or down-hill has the right of way, I've found that people going uphill are more likely to want to take a break to let the downhillers pass than the other way around. 

This is often the case, but it is the up hiller's right of way to relinquish, and we should respect their prerogative.  Of course certain exceptions apply (stock animals always have the right away, etc).

And speaking of stock on the trails; when you make room for their passing it is preferable you stand on the down hill side of a traversing trail when this can be safely facilitated; a spooked animal will want to move away from the offending hiker, and it is better a spooked house bolts up hill rather than down   Also, taking nod from the horse whisperers, remain quiet, avoid eye contact with the animals and sudden movements, and keep your hands down by your sides.  Eye contact and upraised hands can both be perceived as predatory gestures. 


10:27 p.m. on April 20, 2013 (EDT)
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No sense in complaining but:

Cell phones on trail and at summits just plain rude,crude, and classless;

Hikers bounding down the trail oblivious to others..cream pie in the face;

I shake hands only with people who are clearly in common with my own

  cultural and cleanliness values..tho on the trail the knuckle bump  is fair    


and one's precious dog is someone else's wild and irrational animal (tho I do

  enjoy dogs as pets and friends);

Finally, we can't be judgmental: one year on a New Hampshire trail I met an

 inner city group of kids dressed in Sean Jean and Roca Wear - not North 

 Face and PantaGucci-  and as we passed each other going up and down it

 was "How are you today, Sir", "Excuse me, Sir, mind if I pass you to catch 

 up with my group?", " Sorry Sir, go ahead of me please"....Money does not

make for class.

10:32 p.m. on April 20, 2013 (EDT)
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travel and camp on durable surfaces - what does that mean, exactly? you have find a concrete pad in the forest? sleep on rocks? my 'leave no trace' general guidelines have been:

(a) anything you bring in, you carry out.  includes all waste, including organic, usually have dedicated ziplock bags.  except for bathroom and pot-wash waste.  that gets buried and covered.  

(b) no campfires, period.  they leave a trace at a minimum, and they can wreak  major havoc in some areas and some weather conditions if they start a fire.  stoves are a better option.  

(c) hammock sleeping, usually with a tarp strung overhead.  tents, unless pitched on rock, leave an impression on the forest floor.  same, to a lesser degree, for bivy bags.  above the treeline in a lot of places in the northeast, one night in a tent can leave an impression that can last a really long time because the growing season is so narrow and the growth rates so slow in some areas.  one night in a hammock makes little or no impression on the bark of a good-sized tree.  

2:01 a.m. on April 21, 2013 (EDT)
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For me, LNT can be nicely summed up in one point:

1.) Be respectful

Respect demands awareness, and between these two concepts I think all bases are covered.

Now, I like to remember that LNT is not there to facilitate a more pleasurable experience for recreationists; it is there to protect the resource. LNT--first and foremost--helps reduce negative environmental impact...

I think of the Seven Principles as guidelines, more or less; some of the finest practitioners of LNT that I've run across aren't even aware they're doing it...LNT is, at best, a respect and awareness that comes along with more overarching lifestyle choices, methinks. (My reasons for packing out my trash while in the backcountry run along the same lines as my reasons for choosing what food to buy in the first place.)

Again, not to play devils advocate, but there are myriad scenarios where I would not feel the slightest bit guilty for having the largest, longest-burning fire my fire pit allows. We must remember not to see the forest for the trees...Forests operate on century-long cycles, and we must not fool ourselves into thinking our desire for a pretty campsite trumps forest regeneration.

11:23 p.m. on April 21, 2013 (EDT)
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Yeah, I spit on them tho to make sure MINE were clean :)

Did you get any of your pictures posted?

ppine is right.  It is an important social ritual - in most cases. I shake hands if I know the person well enough to do so (like 10 mins) or know them from before.  Hugs are difficult to do with multi-day packs on.

You didn't get a man hug tho.

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