Leave no trace

Please pick up your trash in town or on the trail. Thank you. (Provided photo —Diane Chase)

In my opinion, as I live through my first pandemic, two vastly different life philosophies are being demonstrated.

It is not a matter of the “Haves” and “Have Nots.” It is a matter of the “Every person for themselves” versus “How can I help?” I hope I fall into the realm of the latter. You can either hoard (insert product here) or take your fair share. You either toss your garbage in the general area of a trash bin and walk away, or you notice your shot was anything but net and pick up your junk. You either ignore area rules, or you educate yourself. There isn’t room for anything halfway. You are all in, whichever side you land. I know the argument. You forgot. You didn’t know. You did the best you could. A pandemic is an interesting test to see what personality characteristics rise to the surface.

I think that most of the seven “Leave No Trace” principles are a good baseline for everyday good citizenship. The Leave No Trace philosophy first began in the late 1960s when there was an increased interest in wilderness exploration and outdoor recreation. The seven principles were formalized in the late 1980s and designed to minimalize environmental impact. I’m simplifying here, so please go to the Adirondack Mountain Club (adk.org) and the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics (lnt.org) for an in-depth list and history of the following principles:

1. Plan ahead and prepare. (For the love of all that is right with the world, if you don’t know the rules for an area that you are visiting, please call a store, guide or organization. Just because you camped or rented somewhere else doesn’t mean that the rules are the same for the Adirondacks.)

2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces. (This seems self-explanatory, but it is not. We recently had a visitor who kept trying to apply his Appalachian Trail knowledge to the Adirondacks. Some rules are the same, but others are not. Please learn the difference.)

3. Dispose of waste properly. (Yes, that means what you think it means. Yes, it also means toilet paper. Stop arguing. It always means dispose of your t.p., whether in a public restroom or out in the woods.)

4. Leave what you find. (This doesn’t mean pass the buck on someone else’s garbage. It refers to leaving wild areas like you want them to remain — wild. It can also be applied to visiting a community. No one needs to see your name written on a rock or wall.)

5. Minimize campfire impacts. (Learn where it is legal and illegal to have a campfire. The Adirondack Park isn’t your backyard, and a hastily thrown together circle of rocks is not a safe fire pit.)

6. Respect wildlife. (A bear was recently euthanized because it had become a nuisance to campers. Campers weren’t using appropriate bear canisters and were leaving trash around, attracting animals. Yes, the bear lost its life because humans couldn’t follow rules. Wild animals are not pets, whether in a town or on a trail.)

7. Be considerate of other visitors. (Yes, please.)

Every one of the seven outdoor ethic principles can be applied to everyday common courtesy. Whether you are renting a room, visiting a local site, enjoying the wilderness, or paddling one of many lakes and streams, there is no room for the principle of “It’s not my mess.” It is your job and everyone else’s who visits, lives here and passes through here to help the Adirondacks remain such a beautiful place. Thank you for your help.


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