I read TheDihedral.com’s post on #LeaveNoTrace a while ago and shared it with a partner, but it has been sitting on my mind. I grew up, out of town, in the woods, and was big into trekking over the past few years. The principles I grew up with, and the experiences I have had random camping in Canada, have lead me to take LNT to heart.
Over the years I have ended up taking out many newcomers to the hiking, and specifically the backcountry camping, world. LNT is something that I pounded into thier minds. This was 90% about safety and 10% trail preservation.
I do fully agree with all the points in your blog, and have had a few hikers with me that needed an explaination like yours. For the most part, the city folk who accompanied me would have no clue about any park etiquette and some would continue thier littering habits right onto the trail. They would need LNT constantly reminded to them, and they still would be dripping food all over there clothes, or the ground, or wherever. For these people, LNT is but an unachievable dream that they NEED to strive for in order to remain alive.
My seriousness here is that hiking or climbing from Kananaskis AB, to the Coastal Ranges in BC, involves a fair bit of dangerous wildlife. We have wolverine, bear, cougar, wolf, moose, and elk as some of the larger animal friends that could potentially cause you harm. The smaller ones can be issues as well, deer can kick your dog, and I have had issues with some larger weasels other than the wolverine.
Throwing your apple into the bushes on a mountain trail may seem like a fine idea, and I love your example, yet smaller food waste discarded from a throw will bring the smaller animals to eat it. Squirrels and rabbits will learn that food is easily found near the hiking trails, and often this food will be human food, high in sugar content (addictive). It may not seem to be a big deal having a load of cute mountain bunnies on a approach trail, but cougars eat the bunnies and you just brought their food to where the humans are.
Once one of our bears in Alberta eats human garbage, it is sentanced to death. Feeding a bear, kills a bear we say. This is because the bear learns of the easy, high carb and high sugar, food that can be found near human activity. Yes LNT helps keep our trails looking nice, and a good bivy site will ensure the alpine meadows that take hundreds of years to grow will not be damaged, but not letting your beer spill at camp will save the beer, and possibly your life.
#Leavenotrace is what the people who live the backcountry tell the newbies repetitively to break their bad habits. I did not know that there was an actual society, where one could volunteer their time to propagate. That seems ridiculous, but if that is what is needed to educate the new wave of insta-pic chasers, then I am all for it.
For me personally, LNT has just been a way to stay observant on my actions while random camping. If I cut down a dead tree for firewood, I will cut it down as close to the forest floor as possible, and burn all the cut pieces of it, so the area is ‘untouched’ for the next team on the same approach. I will ensure that I spill no food, because food is precious and it attracts unwanted attention. I will also not bring soap for dishes nor myself, as all of the water sheds I venture up lead into water sources for many of the communities here.
As human’s, we destroy and build. I think this is just fine. Trails and backcountry campgrounds are made to house us in the mountains. If I toss my apple an arms throw from a trail, it may not be a big deal, but if every new hiker to Banff National Park does that this summer, we will have serious issues. We are never going to live to the code of #LeaveNoTrace, but it needs to be talked about with anyone new to the backcountry. Sadly in our current day and age, snagging a summit selfie for your Tinder bio is far more important than doing beta, training, and actually dedicating a small portion of your care to the backcountry.