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Fifty Sense: Common Sense Ideas for Thriving after 50
Fifty Sense: Common Sense Ideas for Thriving after 50

Leave No Trace Behind

Most of us have heard of the expression, "Leave No Trace," but may have not done the research before going out to really know how it can affect our trip planning. After fifty, we have a larger responsibility to understand these principals and practice them because the younger hikers look to us to set examples. The Leave No Trace principles may not seem important first glance, but their value is apparent when combining the combined effects of millions of outdoor visitors.

One poorly located campsite or fire ring is of little significance, but thousands of such instances slowly degrade the outdoor experience for all. Leave No Trace is worth the effort. Here are some basic guidelines. There are many websites dedicated to this principal when you want to find out how you can make a difference!

Plan Ahead and Prepare
Proper trip planning and preparation helps hikers and campers achieve trip goals safely and enjoyably while minimizing damage to natural and cultural resources. Poorly prepared campers, concerned with unexpected situations, often resort to high-impact solutions that degrade the outdoors or put themselves at risk.

Camp and Travel on Durable Surfaces
Damage to land occurs when surface vegetation or communities of organisms are trampled beyond repair. The resulting barren area leads to unusable trails, campsites and soil erosion.

Pack it In, Pack it Out
This common saying is a simple yet effective way to get backcountry visitors to take their trash home with them. There is no reason why people cannot carry out of the backcountry the extra materials which they carried in with them in the first place. Though most trash and litter in the backcountry is not significant in terms of the long term ecological health of an area, it does rank high as a problem in the minds of many backcountry visitors. Trash and litter detract from an area s naturalness.

Properly Dispose of What You Can't Pack Out
Backcountry users create body waste and waste water which requires proper disposal.

Waste water
Prevent contamination of natural water sources; disperse dishwater far away from springs, streams, and lakes. Minimize the need to pack out food scraps by carefully planning meals. Avoid the use of soap.

Human waste
Proper human waste disposal prevents spread of disease, exposure to others, and speeds decomposition. Catholes, 6 to 8 inches deep and 200 feet from water, are often the easiest and most practical way to dispose of feces.

Leave What You Find
Allow others a sense of discovery; leave rocks, plants, archaeological artifacts and other objects as found.

Minimize Site Alterations
Do not dig tent trenches or build lean-tos, tables or chairs. Avoid hammering nails into trees, hacking at them with hatchets or saws, or damaging bark and roots by tying horses to trees for extended periods. If you clear an area of rocks or twigs, replace these items before leaving. On high-impact sites, it is appropriate to clean the site and dismantle any user-built facilities, such as multiple fire rings and log seats or tables. Consider the idea that good campsites are found and not made.

Minimize Use and Impact of Fire
Some people would not think of camping without a campfire. Yet, the naturalness of many areas has been degraded by overuse of fires and increasing demand for firewood. Lightweight camp stoves are essential for low-impact camping and have engaged a shift away from fires. Stoves are fast and eliminate firewood availability as a camp site selection concern.

If building a fire, the most important consideration is the potential for damage. The best place to build a fire is within an existing fire ring in a well-placed campsite. Choose not to have a fire in areas with little wood at higher elevations, in heavily used areas, or in desert settings. True Leave No Trace fires show no evidence of having ever been constructed.

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