Leave No Trace

(I swore I wouldn't do this...)

I am not, by any means, an expert (on anything, really) and I hate preaching from soapboxes. Besides that, it seems that every outdoor site on the web has the obligatory post regarding Leave No Trace (LNT) outdoor usage so, when I started this site, I swore that I would not be redundant by making such a post.

Yet, here I am, barely a year into the project and I'm reneging on that. Why?... Because I recently had a friend ask what Leave No Trace meant. I was dumbfounded.

Oh well, if I'm going to mount the soapbox, might as well do it the best that I can, right?

LNT should guide our actions whenever we are outdoors and it can be most easily understood in the terminology of my childhood when we were told to "take only pictures and leave only footprints".

As it relates specifically to camping, there are seven keys to remember:

1) Any and all trash must be packed out. If you're having a fire, burning paper is OK but no campfire gets hot enough to burn foil or foil-lined food pouches. Just take them home with you. (PS: coffee grounds, tea bags, etc. have strong aromas and, left at the site, might cause critter problems for future campers... take those home too)

1a) If you have a fire, erase the evidence. Be sure the ashes are cold to the touch then scatter the fire ring and flip the rocks over if they show signs of burns. Sift leaves, etc over the area to eradicate all signs of the fire and scatter any unburned firewood. (Yes, it's a lot of work to hide a fire which is why I usually skip them unless I'm using an established or designated campsite.)

2) Do not clear vegetation. If the site isn't open enough to set up between the bushes, young trees or shrubbery, it's not an ideal campsite. Keep looking.

3) Camp at least 100 feet from any water source. I would go just a bit further with this one and suggest looking for any game trails that lead to the water. Animals will use the easiest way to access the water just as we do so give them a little room and set up camp 100 feet off of any game trail as well.

4) Dispose of any waste water at least 200 feet from any water source. Even biodegradable soap takes time to break down... try to make sure it stays out of the water long enough to do so.

5) All human waste should be buried at least 6 inches deep and not less than 200 feet from a water source. Personally, I think I'd rather have soap in my water so... this is really a no-brainer.

6) No standing trees (not even the dead ones) should be cut and

7) All campsites should be a minimum of 25 feet off of the trail and, ideally, out of sight of the trail. I always feel like I'm intruding when camps are close to the trail... I can't imagine having someone walk through my campsite.

Don't get me wrong, I often use "established" campsites (they're about the only places that I actually light a fire) but I also take a bit of pride in looking over a site after packing and knowing that the average person would never suspect that anyone had stayed there.

(Incidentally, if you're wondering about the picture, the dry spot where the leaves are compressed is where the tent was sitting on the first night of the Quehanna trail trip. It was raining lightly that morning so I'm sure and hour or so after the picture was taken, mother nature removed the rest of the evidence.)