Ah, the Leave No Trace Seven Principles. A short, but sweet, rulebook for the outdoor enthusiast. A non-mandatory-but-totally-should-be course in some amazing college programs. Consider them the ten commandments for outdoor recreation, except there’s only seven and there’s no promise of redemption after you die (though I have a hunch that those who respect this sweet little rock in the galaxy are treated much better in the afterlife, if that’s what you’re inclined to believe).
Following the Leave No Trace Seven Principles not only ensures the safe and respectable enjoyment of the outdoors, but also protects these areas for future generations. These principles are proof that the smallest actions can have the greatest impact on the environment.
Unfortunately, due to a lapse in government funding, there has been a recent influx in visitors to the National Parks without the staff there to provide them information regarding conservation tactics or the enforcement of these rules. So weird to think that the government could fail on such a simple level, right? Regardless of the government’s incapability to function, we can still have a gay ol’ time without completely destroying our public spaces.
So, if you’re heading to a park now or in the future, I’m gonna make this really easy for you. Turn back now if language offends you.
LEAVE NO TRACE FOR DUMMIES
You can go ahead and read the unabridged version of the Leave No Trace Seven Principles here. If you’re too lazy, continue reading.
Plan Ahead and Prepare
Translation: Know the f*cking rules.
This is the first, and simplest, and possibly the most important, principle. Even if you stop reading after this paragraph, at least you’ll take this principle with you. The National Parks don’t have bouncers that can turn people down at the door. They’re open, they’re public, and recently, they’ve been a dumping ground for dumb*sses. If you’re planning a trip to a public outdoor area, do a friggin’ lick of research on the regulations. Seriously, the minimum amount. Even a whisper of knowledge to show you care.
Don’t touch the trees in Joshua Tree. Don’t approach the grizzlies in Denali. Don’t bring your d*ckhead friends that litter. Take a photo of a protected species and admire it from afar. They’re not called “protected species” because we throw tents over them and spoon-feed them. They’re protected from humans because, as it turns out, we can be just as much of an enemy to the outdoors as we can be a friend.
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
Translation: If it’s there, use it. If not, disperse.
Trails already established? AMAZING! YOU CAN HIKE THERE!
Campsite stocked with a fire ring and table? HOLY SH*T BALLS, IT’S LIKE IT’S THERE FOR A REASON.
Wait, there’s no trail? THAT’S OKAY, KEEP HIKING! JUST DON’T MAKE A NEW TRAIL.
Sh*t, no campsite? ALL IS NOT LOST, YOUNG ONE. GET A BACKPACKING PERMIT, A CAMP STOVE, AND THIS BOOK.
Dispose of Waste Properly
Translation: No person or animal wants to clean up your sh*t.
We learned not to litter in kindergarten, but if you need a quick refresher: put your trash in the garbage bin. I’m not even going to ask you to recycle at this point because the concept of putting your sh*t into bins seems foreign enough already. Speaking of sh*t…
Dig a hole (six inches deep - I know most of you think you know what six inches looks like, but don’t flatter yourself), take a sh*t, and cover it up. It’s like magic except with your *ss - now you see it, now you don’t. Do this at least 200 feet away from water because no one is trying to gurgle your poop particles.
No trash can in sight? Oh boo hoo, looks like you’ll have to hold onto it. But hey, that’s not a problem, right? Because you’re prepared to hike, which includes a daypack, right?
Leave What You Find
Translation: No touchy.
Plants, rocks, and historical structures don’t want to be touched. Simple as that. #MeToo
Soil does not want to be dug up unless you’re digging a cat hole.
Don’t pick up antler sheds either. And for the love of god, do not move animal sh*t, even if you need it for some weird collection.
Minimize Campfire Impacts
Translation: Do I really need to dumb this down?
Use the fire ring, don’t light up a d*mn bonfire, and then snuff it before you pass out next to your bed of Coors light cans, Brad.
Translation: They can totally eat you, gore you, sting you, and bite you. Still, you’re more dangerous.
Quite frankly, it’s hard to feel bad for those who get injured by knowingly messing with wildlife. In short, this principle applies to protecting the animals. By approaching and/or feeding wildlife, we alter their natural behaviors and risk exposing them to danger. And hey, if this isn’t important to you, whatever. I’ll let Darwinism step in.
Be Considerate of Other Visitors
Translation: Don’t be a f*ckwad.
No one’s there to see you; they’re outdoors to enjoy the outdoors. With the rise in annual visitors to these public spaces, you will no doubt run into other human beings during your stint - so please, be a decent (DECENT, I’m literally asking the minimum amount of kindness) person to your fellow humans.
And ohmygod please leave your bluetooth speaker and sh*tty taste in music in your disappointed parent’s house where it belongs.
Remember - these spaces are only here for us to enjoy because someone in the past thought it was important to conserve. That responsibility now lies on us. Now go out, enjoy the parks, and spread the word to other folks that being an *sshole is not allowed.
If there’s anything I missed, please let me know in the comments!