The concept of “leave no trace” seems to be lost on many people, especially on the trails here in Austin. Recently, a topic surfaced on the Tejas Trails Facebook Page about people ditching their tiny gel packet tabs along the trail during races, and it reminded me of the time I went for a run the day after the Austin Marathon and saw the street littered with these tiny little tabs, as well as full empty gel packets.
Why people think it’s okay to trash the roads and trails during a race is beyond me. You should treat your outdoor experience the same as any other, race day or not. The way I see it, if you carried that item on your person throughout your run, you have room to store the trash on your person as well. The old adage goes, pack it in, pack it out.
Perhaps I feel so strongly about this because I grew up spending time outdoors and hate seeing pristine wilderness littered with garbage. I even hate seeing the trail just miles from my house trashed out as well for that matter. I’m especially shocked at the people that bag their dog poop and then leave it on the side of the trail, as if some other person is going to take it out for them. Get a brain people and have some respect for the thousands of people coming out to enjoy the trail every week.
To some extent I can let ignorance and lack of being educated play a factor, but much of this stuff is common sense. How would you feel If I let my dog crap in your yard and then left it for you to take care of, or threw my energy bar wrapper in your lawn? If you carry food with you on the trail, you take the trash out with you. If your dog craps on the trail, bag it up and carry it out. If you feel that doing so is gross, it may be best to leave your dog at home.
But, I admit that the education factor could play a part. So, below you will see a few principles to help guide your enjoyment of the outdoors (trails and primitive camping in particular), and will help others be able to enjoy it as well:
Plan ahead and prepare
- Know the rules and regulations of the area you are visiting
- Travel in small groups when possible
- Repackage food to minimize waste
- Bring a map and use a compass to eliminate the use of flagging, marking, and creating rock cairns
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces
Camp in established areas
- Camp at least 200 feet from streams and lakes
- Travel in single file, using the middle of the trail, even when wet and muddy
- Avoid camping in places that would require impacts to begin
- If using pristine areas is required, disperse the creation of the site to avoid creating permanent campsites
- Dispose of waste properly
Pack it in, pack it out!
- Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6-8 inches deep, at a minimum of 200ft away from campsites and water sources.
- Wash dishes with a small amount biodegradable soap at least 200ft from campsites and water sources
Leave what you find
- Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
- Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them
- Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species
- Minimize campfire impacts
- Use lightweight camping stoves for cooking whenever possible
- Where fires are permitted, use established campfire rings
- Keep fires small, use only sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand
- Burn all wood and coals to ash, and put out campfires completely, and scatter the cool ashes
- Observe from a distance, do not approach them
- Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behavior, and exposes them to predators and other dangers
- Protect wildlife from your food by storing rations and trash securely
- Control pets at all times, or leave them at home
Be considerate to other visitos
- Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience
- Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail
- Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock
- Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors
- Let nature’s sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises (I will personally add loud music to this list, which I especially see as a problem in car camping situations, even some semi-primitive areas)
The principles above can be found on the Leave no Trace website, along with several I left out or slightly modified. So, if you read this you can no longer use ignorance as an excuse for damaging the trails, and lessening the outdoor experience for others.
When getting outdoors, and enjoying creation, remember others are coming behind you to do the same thing, so please keep it how you found it.