Trails for everyone, forever

Home News Blog Leave No Trace Level 2.0

Leave No Trace Level 2.0

Posted by Erika Haugen-Goodman at May 02, 2017 02:26 PM |
Filed under:

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.

Toss it

Fling your wastewater at least 200 feet from water sources to avoid impacting a single area. Photo by Mike Monahan.Fling your wastewater at least 200 feet from water sources to avoid impacting a single area. Photo by Mike Monahan.

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.

Swim smart

Check to see if the water source you want to swim in has an outflow. Photo by Erin Fujita.Before swimming, check to make sure the watr source has an outflow. Photo by Erin Fujita.

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

Never leave food behind, including apple cores or orange and banana peels. Photo by Karen Wang.Never leave food behind, including apple cores or orange and banana peels. Photo by Karen Wang.

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.

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.


Ponder and Muse on Leave No Trace Level 2.0

Regarding cooking water, we don't have to worry about it. We use a Jetboil to heat water for dehydrated meals - at the end, there's nothing to clean up except folding up the bag the meal came in and stuffing it in our trash (and maybe licking the spork). For cross-country travel, we learned to walk about 100 feet away from each other so as to disperse our footfall and mitigate the effects of creating a new "trail" - the damage done is actually less than if we traveled in a straight line (per the Nat'l Park Service rangers).

Posted by:

Ponder and Muse on May 03, 2017 07:24 AM

anonwums on Leave No Trace Level 2.0

Don't toss it. Scrape off all of the food you can, and then drink the water. Also, swallow your toothpaste. It's safe to do, as long as you're not eating tubes of toothpaste in one sitting.

Posted by:

Adam_G on May 15, 2017 12:45 PM

Muledeer on Leave No Trace Level 2.0

Pack out your TP instead of burying it. I have a 'business bag' in my pack with fresh TP, saniwipes and a small roll of dog poo bags that take my used TP back to be flushed. I didn't used to to this but now there's too many 'flowers'. Even if it's buried, it comes back to haunt the woods.

Posted by:

Muledeer on May 05, 2018 01:34 PM