Have you been paying attention to social media in the Southern Appalachians region in recent days? No doubt you have seen the disturbing photographs from Max Patch, one of the iconic hiking locations along the Appalachian Trail, and in all of the South.
Max Patch, and so many others of our favorite destinations, is being overcrowded to a slow, painful death. After any summer weekend you may find hundreds of pounds of trash discarded and left behind, spoiling the scenery for those that follow. It’s laziness plain and simple. Especially out west, vandalism is on the uptick as well.
It seems the problem has become exponentially worse this year of COVID-19. Those who can’t participate in their favorite indoors activities because of closed businesses and quarantines are discovering The Great Outdoors en masse. Many of these are outdoor recreation newcomers. Perhaps it isn’t their fault. They simply haven’t been taught how to behave when in Mother Nature’s house.
One of the first things I learned, and I’m sure many of you as well, when becoming attracted to outdoors adventure was the concept of Leave No Trace.
Of the hundreds of trail reports I’ve posted on Meanderthals since its inception in 2011, I have always included this simple phrase in the author bio at the bottom of every page, “Pack it in, pack it out. Preserve the past. Respect other hikers. Let nature prevail. Leave no trace.” Pretty straightforward, right? Easily doable, right?
It’s simple in its message, easy to follow, and to the point. But it’s becoming increasingly apparent that simplicity isn’t enough. So today I am making a commitment that Meanderthals will adjust its focus from education about trails and destinations, to education about conservation and the environment. Some changes are:
Telling you how to safely get to exciting and picturesque places that you have never been so you can camp and picnic and leave 30 pounds of trash behind when your weekend is over isn’t cutting it. So I will find a better way. I will significantly curtail recommendations for hiking trails on social media, very carefully choosing any exceptions. Posting location descriptions about my photographs will stop. Don’t bother asking “where is this?” I won’t answer. Perhaps I will offer tools for route finding and map reading. It may require a little more work on your part, but in the end you will be more satisfied.
Instead, the emphasis here will be on protecting our public lands. It starts with loving our wild places the right way, through stewardship. That stewardship is explained in The Seven Principles of Leave No Trace:
- Plan Ahead and Prepare
- Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Dispose of Waste Properly
- Leave What You Find
- Minimize Campfire Impacts
- Respect Wildlife
- Be Considerate of Others
Our future generations are counting on us now. These principles all work together to help leave the outdoors the way we found it. You can’t pick and choose the ones that work for you. The whole is one. If not, we end up with disasters like Max Patch.
When all the trees have been cut down,
when all the animals have been hunted,
when all the waters are polluted,
when all the air is unsafe to breathe,
only then will you discover you cannot eat money.
This post was created by Jeff Clark. Please feel free to use the sharing icons below, or add your thoughts to the comments. Pack it in, pack it out. Preserve the past. Respect other hikers. Let nature prevail. Leave no trace.