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Common Misconceptions of LNT

Thursday, April 26, 2012
As summer approaches more and more people head out to the trail. It's a good time to remind ourselves about the importance of Leave No Trace (LNT). The hope is that every hiker, biker, and outdoorsman takes these principles seriously, leaving the woods just as beautiful as before they arrived.

Most people understand the basic principles of Leave No Trace ethics when in the outdoors: Don't be a jerk.

What you may not realize is how many things you might do regularly that actually violate these Leave No Trace principles. The expression "Take only pictures and leave only footsteps" covers the basics. We need to be conscious of common habits that are negatively affecting our trails.

1. Don't leave apple cores and banana peels in the woods. Though it seems like a neutral action (they're biodegradable!) and perhaps even a way to help bring nutrients to the soil, any leftovers attract critters that shouldn't eat human food. Here's an example of a goose who had become accustomed to human's feeding him. This definitely wasn't the most pleasant lunch for DO guide Gary.

2. Don't pee in the water. I grew up peeing in lakes and streams, but as it turns out, this brings unwanted bacteria to the local ecosystem. The rule is to relieve yourself 150 feet from any water source so that the ground can filter out harmful toxins.

3. Muddy shoes are OK. In the spring or after any rainfall, trails get muddy in lower areas. Don't be afraid to hike through the mud. Hiking around it increases the size of the trail. Vegetation, like wild flowers, may never grow again if others follow your steps.

4. Don't hike off trail. Making your own route may be fun, but trails exist for a reason: to consolidate and minimize our impact.

5. Don't build a campfire just anywhere. Campfires scar the land and prevent vegetation from growing because heat also enters the soil. Build your bonfire in established pits, or read the park rules for acceptable areas.

Your mind is blown, I know. Like me, you've probably been doing a few of these things since you were a kid. At least its not too late to change and make the trails a better place for everyone.

Please share this post with your hiking friends so they too can fine tune their Leave No Trace skills. If you think you need to brush up LNT.org has a free online awareness course.

Written by DO guide Kevin Cafaro.

Categories: Education