Take Only Memories, Leave Only Footprints

Get more out of life—take a hike!

Hiking the trails at Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park in southern Alberta. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hiking the trails at Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park in southern Alberta. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Now that we’re well into spring and getting ready for summer, it’s prime time to get out on the trail and enjoy the colorful wildflowers, wandering wildlife, and breathtaking views of the natural world.

One of the primary reasons hiking is such a transcendent experience is it offers the opportunity to get away from civilization to enjoy the beauty of the natural world.

June is one of the best months of the year for hiking because the wildflowers also bring a lot of other cool stuff such as butterflies and hummingbirds.

With so many exciting subjects to observe and photograph, it’s easy to forget that this is also one of the most fragile times of year for the natural world. So, it’s important to leave no trace when you’re out on the trail.

Or in the words of Chief Seattle, “take only memories, leave only footprints”.

Leaving no trace means you leave the wilderness as you found it or maybe a little better by picking up any trash you find. Whatever you bring in, you should also bring out. Pack out your trash and pick up any litter left by others. If everyone carried out additional debris left by others, litter problems would be quickly eliminated.

Hiking the trails at Mount Robson Provincial Park in British Columbia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hiking the trails at Mount Robson Provincial Park in British Columbia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It means the only things you take away are memories and photographs, and the only thing you leave behind is footprints. But, you should also be careful just where you leave those footprints.

Avoid stepping on plants (especially wildflowers), and stay on established trails as much as possible.

Read the signs posted at the trailhead. At some of the more popular trailheads, there’s often a large sign with a trail map, posted regulations, safety reminders, and sometimes special considerations for leaving no trace. Make sure you read and follow any rules specific to that trail.

Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.

Learn the local ecology before visiting a new location. This will help you understand what’s endangered, what’s invasive, and how careful you need to be while you’re hiking through that area.

Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.

Don’t feed the wildlife. NEVER feed wild animals. It not only ruins the wildness of the land, but it also makes the animal depending on human food.

To ensure you leave no trace, following are guidelines to follow when out on a trail.

Leave-No-Trace Principles

Plan ahead and be prepared.

Travel and camp on durable surfaces.

Dispose of waste properly and pack out your trash.

Leave what you find.

Respect wildlife and minimize impact.

Be careful where you step.

Be considerate of others.

Hiking the trails at Congaree National Park, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hiking the trails at Congaree National Park, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Leaving a wilderness area just as you found it will also ensure that the next visitor enjoys that same wildness you did.

Above all, be aware that you are not alone in the woods. Other wilderness hikers and campers also enjoy the solitude. Make as little noise as possible while hiking.

Let nature’s sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.

Worth Pondering…

May all your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view……where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you.

—Edward Abbey

This entry was posted in Hiking, Public Recreation Areas and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply