I just finished reading a post on backpacker.com about trail etiquette and it got me to thinking. How many of you consider the impact you have on the trail and on others while you are out hiking? We all love the trail, otherwise we wouldn't be out there right? But have you ever stopped to consider if your being out on the trail has affected anyone else's experience? If so, I can only hope that it is in a positive manner. I hope the effects of my being on the trail have been positive for others.
The article covered 5 simple rules to consider while being on the trail.
Rule 1: Give the uphill hiker the right of way.
Rule 2: Leave rock cairns alone. (Those piles of rocks on the side of a trail)
Rule 3: If you have to go number 2 do it as far from the trail and as far from water as possible.
Rule 4: Be friendly and greet other hikers.
Rule 5: Stay off the phone.
Most of these are pretty self explanatory especially after you've read the article. As for us, I think we do a pretty good job of following those unwritten rules. It's not our trail, it's everyone's trail and we should all be able to enjoy it, the solitude, the natural beauty, etc. I think there are a few more rules that could be passed along or at least remembered.
1. Leave no trace - There's nothing more appalling on a trail than seeing someone's garbage lying about. If you've packed it in, pack it out. Countless number of times have we seen garbage laying on the side of the trail, and typically it's from someone who has no care about their surroundings and aren't normally hikers, but are rather going to a swimming hole or heard about a waterfall so they just want to check it out. Along that same vein, however, we who love our woods should be diligent in picking up the trash that others have left behind. True, we shouldn't have to pick up after the negligent, but we shouldn't have to pick up after our kids either. However, if you have the means and it's not too much of a burden, pick up that empty soda bottle and dispose of it. It may not be your trash but every little bit helps. Think of it as your own volunteer effort to help maintain our trails and restore the beauty we are all out there to see.
2. Resist the urge to pick those pretty flowers - I'm pretty sure we've all been guilty of this at one time or another. Yes they are absolutely beautiful and would most definitely look gorgeous in your hair over your ear. Or your female trail mate might smile upon receiving the fresh picked trail flower. However, if you pick it, then no one else can enjoy it. Think of the time were it looks like there might have been a flower on the trail but you missed out because someone before you picked it. Let others share those glimpses of beauty and leave the flowers be.
3. Mind your canine pals - I've seen countless debates about dogs on trails. There has been arguments for and against them. We have Clover Beene, and in most instances we keep her on a leash while on a trail. Pretty much every park that allows our four-legged friends to accompany us on the trail, also require that they be on a leash. If that is the rule, then follow it. It's that simple. Sometimes however, you want to let Rover off to go at his/her own will. In some cases that maybe okay. If you do this make sure your dog is trained well enough to listen to and obey your commands. There are instances when we let Clover off the leash and it's usually when there doesn't appear to be anyone else on the trail. However, there have been times where we've been surprised that people are on the trail. Clover is well behaved, trail-trained, and she listens mostly - and mostly to Robin because she's spent the most time training her. It's not a major chore to call her to us and leash her instantly the second we see someone on the trail, and we've also trained her to stay on the trail (in other words, she doesn't venture off ahead making her own path in the woods). There are some who don't give it any thought at all and their dogs come bounding down the trail. We normally don't mind this, especially if Clover is not with us, but there are some who do and for us I'm not too keen on it when I have Clover as she gets quite nervous around other people and dogs. We all need to take this into consideration and think about our fellow hikers.
Okay, I could expound more, but I think I will leave it at that. Just remember that the trails we have are not a right but a privilege that many have provided for us to enjoy. Let's remember that while we are out on the trail, others may also be on it. If there isn't someone on the trail there will be before long. While something primordial may well up inside us while we gallivant in the woods just begging to be let loose, let's have a little restraint or at least maybe keep some sort of civility and respect about us so that others can thoroughly enjoy the trails we love so much.
Now I turn to you, our readers, what other unwritten rules do you follow while out on the trail? Let us know what else we may not have covered, realized or forgotten. Until next time...
Tim and Robin