If you are an experienced hiker, you are probably aware of the Leave No Trace (LNT) principles. Many of the ideas come from common sense backwoods etiquette; there is more to it than “Pack it in, pack it out.”
“Leave No Trace” was founded in 1987. In this educational program, people are encouraged to practice responsible outdoor recreation through education, research and partnerships. Many corporations and outdoor groups have adopted this philosophy. I will discuss the seven principles and suggest things we can all do to help make the backwoods experience more enjoyable for ourselves and others.
- Plan ahead and prepare. This is vital whenever you leave the beaten path or a paved surface. With proper planning, a minor (or even major) problem can become more manageable. Make sure you know where you are going, prepare for what you may encounter and let someone know your plans. Planning everything from what equipment to bring to what to have for meals can help you limit your impact on natural resources.
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces. To avoid causing damage, stay on the trail and don’t make new campsites or fire pits. Be prepared to walk through the mud or puddles rather than making the trail wider or creating a bunch of side trails. Consider using a hammock instead of a tent.
- Dispose of waste properly, including all garbage, dish water and human waste. It is important to use “cat holes” for human waste (bury in a small hole 6-8 inches deep). Dispose of human waste away from the trail and campsites, and at least 100 metres from any water source. Bury your paper as well.
- Leave what you find. We are all guilty of this; don’t take home a neat rock or fossil, or pick flowers or fruit. Remember that the next person would like to experience what you just did, so leave ‘it’ there for all to enjoy.
- Minimize the effects of a campfire. Keep the fire only as large as required. We all love a big bonfire, but do we really need one? A good rule of thumb is to use wood found on the ground no larger than your wrist. Never cut down a tree for firewood. Use a pre-existing fire pit if possible, not on the trail and always make sure you put it completely out. When possible, use a small gas fuel stove to avoid the need to collect wood and put out the fire later.
- Respect wildlife. We all go out in hopes of enjoying nature and maybe catching a glimpse of wildlife as a bonus. When out in the backcountry, I face a dilemma: I want to see wildlife but I also want them to be aware of my presence and give me space as well. Either way, always give nature enough room to continue without altering its route. Observe from a distance; get a better camera lens instead of trying to get close. Be aware of mothers and babies in the spring and potential fathers in the fall when they can be aggressive. Also, do not feed wild animals; they can find food on their own and need to keep a healthy fear of us. People often ask me if there are bears on the Dobson Trail or Fundy Footpath and my response is, “they live in the woods and the trails are in the woods.”
- Be considerate of other visitors, last but not least, both while on the trail and well after you leave. We have all met that loud group at a campsite, the people playing loud music as they hike, and those who leave garbage behind or damage the trail. I always think about what I would like to experience while I’m out, and then try to make sure I don’t ruin that for others. Don’t camp on the trail, don’t block the trail, share the amenities if there are some, and be polite and helpful. Keep pets under control at all times. Dogs running free can be unwelcome, frightening people or leaving behind unwanted "presents." Please pick up dog feces. All areas in New Brunswick require dogs to be under control or on a leash at all times.
For more information on Trails, see Exploring Our Trails.