Leave No Trace Level 2.0
Some things you can do to reduce your impact on the outdoors may be less obvious than others. Here are some that WTA staffers came up with.
It’s probably no surprise that hiking is a nonstop topic of conversation at the WTA offices. Recently, I was talking with my coworkers about the nuanced Leave No Trace tricks we’ve learned over the years. These details aren’t immediately obvious but can go a long way to minimize our effect on wild places.
One of the first things we talked about was the fine art of the dishwater fling. Instead of dumping wastewater on a single spot (at least 200 feet from water sources, of course), you should, for lack of a better word, fling it so it spreads out and doesn’t impact a single area. Even after decades of outdoor adventures, that was news to me.
We also agreed that this one was easy to overlook: The next time you go swimming in an alpine tarn, be sure there’s an outflow. Pools of water with no outflow can sit without being refreshed by snow melt until the following year. If you swim, the oils on your skin—not to mention sunscreen and bug spray—can have an outsized impact on the plants and animals that use that water source. Also, it never hurts to rinse yourself off (at least 200 feet away) before swimming in small bodies of water.
Don’t toss it
Another Leave No Trace question that hikers ask me a lot is about apple cores and orange peels. Hikers wonder why they can’t leave them to decompose. The answer? Fruit peels can take months or years to decompose. In addition to the visual impact, improperly discarded food waste can impact wildlife behavior and animals can become dependent on humans for food.
What are the questions you still wonder about? What lesser-known tips have you picked up along the way to minimize your impact? Share them with us in the comments below.
For more tips and info check out our Trail Smarts resources.
This piece originally appeared in the May+June 2017 issue of Washington Trails Magazine. Support trails as a member of WTA to get your one-year subscription to the magazine.