I love to go out and up. Outside and up in elevation, that is!
Our mountains are an invaluable treasure that people, from near and far, flock every season of the year to enjoy.
Do you remember Disney’s Humphrey Bear and his ‘boss’, Ranger J. Audubon Woodlore? How about Yogi and Boo Boo, the troublesome bears who constantly went the rounds with Ranger Smith? In my wanderings, much to my children’s dismay, I often sing songs I acquired from the shows of my childhood! My favorite tune to sing when we’re outdoors is the chorus from Disney’s 1961 animated short The Litterbug.
The song may be dated, but the message lingers still. The favorite parental tactic of guilting to achieve desirable behavior is used. However, let’s wander a bit from the guilt and instead talk facts and etiquette to enforce the “leave no trace” idea as we spend time on public grounds. After all, we are civil human beings with good manners who know to not leave a trail of litter and destruction strewn behind us as we go … right?
Leave it the way you found it! Don’t take away and don’t add to the landscape. You may come across treasures, things that catch your eye and leave you in awe when on public lands, but it all needs to stay put. Rocks, trees, all vegetation, and natural elements need to stay where you found them. They don’t even need to be rearranged. Nobody needs to know you were there. Please don’t carve your name in the local scenery, build structures, furniture, or dig trenches. Also, be aware of undesirable passengers. I’m referring to the non-native species you could be transporting on your clothing, vehicles, or even your animals. Introduction of these in either plant or animal form can be devastating to the native ecosystem.
Do what you do with your doo doo
If you are out and about without facilities nearby and nature calls in a solid way, the proper disposal of human waste is to dig a 6-8 inch “cathole.” This little hole should be dug a minimum of 200 feet away from trails, camps, and water. It should be thoroughly concealed when you’re finished. If you choose to use paper rather than native supplies or other hygiene items, they should be packed out or burned. Speaking of fire…
Utah’s public lands fire restrictions are continually changing. It is important to stay abreast of current conditions to avoid fines, or even imprisonment. Even more than that, let’s avoid burning things up, such as acres of forest and range lands where people not only recreate, but make their living by grazing livestock or harvesting and managing timber. When visiting in agency-designated recreation sites, use the provided concrete or metal rings. If a ring is not available and there are not current restrictions, be sure to choose a spot clear of brush and grasses, and keep an eye out for low hanging branches that may catch a flame. Don’t light a fire in windy conditions and be sure you have plenty of water and/or sand nearby to extinguish. Keep your fire small and burn the wood entirely to ash. Leaving your fire unattended is a big no no. Don’t forget, your fire is not a trash can. Pack trash out. Don’t throw it in the fire. When you are done with your fire, thoroughly douse the flames with water, and use the back of your hand to check for any heat that may still be radiating. Do not leave until is it cold to the touch. You may have to douse your fire a few times to be sure it is completely extinguished. Current regulations are posted at UtahFireInfo.gov
Leaving no trace takes good planning. A packing tip is to repackage food, and other usable items which create waste, into bags. Once items are used, the bags can be stored inside one other to eliminate and condense waste, making it easy to pack out.
Don’t throw your pop or other cans in your campfire. Your fire will not reach the temperature needed to properly dispose of cans. You packed it in. You need to pack it out. Take a close look at your camp on the way out for trash or spilled food.
You’re in bear country. Our area is home to thousands of our largest native predator, the black bear. Help keep these fuzzy guys content in their territory. Remember, you are a visitor to their home. For a bear-safe campsite, food, drinks, and scented items should never be stored in your tent. Instead, use a vehicle, a bear-safe container, or hang items in a tree away from your camp for storage. If available, bear-safe dumpsters are the best place to dispose of trash. Be sure to pack out anything that may tempt their sniffers. If bears get even the tiniest taste of pleasure and ease from our carelessness it can easily become their demise. They can quickly become aggressive the next time around. Sadly, that provides a one-way ticket to destruction for our furry friends. Be responsible and help them stay wild and free.
Operation of Vehicles and Travel
Whether you’re traveling to reach a destination to recreate or the ride itself is the activity — travel wisely. Whatever transportation you use, be sure your choice of travel fits the area. Plan your route ahead using the correct resources. There’s always a chance you may have to make repairs on your vehicle. Be prepared with tools and supplies; keeping in mind that you should carry all debris and rubbish out with you when you are good to go. Watch signage for the location’s information on allowed transportation. There are so many ways to travel including: automobile, 4WD, UTV, ATV, bike, motorcycle, boat, horse, skis, or on foot. All trails, roads, and waterways have designations for appropriate usage. Stay the course! It is easy to damage meadows, wetlands, lake shores, and streams if you deviate from the provided paths. These environments are important to a broad range of plants and animals and keep our lands balanced and beautiful. Remember the non-native hitch hikers mentioned earlier? It’s important to wash your vehicle before and after a drive to prevent the spread of invasive species.
The Forest Service, and other public entities, work hard to provide designated trails, roads, and waterways. Keep in mind there are thousands of visitors passing through. It’s important to minimize our collective footprint. Remember to go over objects that may be lying in the path of travel instead of around. This prevents the widening of trails and limits damage done to the land. Be sure to cross water only on designated fording points.
Remember your mom harping on you to “leave it better than you found it?” This applies to our local forests and public lands. My favorite etiquette tip is to stop by the local Forest Service station and pick up the native seed packets. When you’re done doing your business plant a few seeds. You’re leaving a lot more behind and in a much better way than when your little venture started. At the end of the day, just mind your manners. Be the good human we all aspire to be. If helpful, sing yourself the litter bug song.
“Litterbug, litterbug, where’s your pride?
Making a mess of the countryside
Spoiling and soiling each lovely view
Shame, oh shame on you
Litterbug, oh shame on you!”
For more information on how to Leave No Trace and Tread Lightly visit: LNT.org and treadlightly.org
both sites have fun, free, printable info cards and pamphlets to help keep the outdoors accessible and open for all to enjoy.