Going over my first post on this subject in my mind I keep feeling that more needed to be said about why I think this is important. The question I keep asking myself is “Would someone who doesn’t get it before they read my post get it after they read it?” So either to quiet the voices in my head or to perhaps explain on a more personal level why I consider the subject worth thinking about, writing about and most importantly keeping in mind when spending time out in the wide world…
When leaving the “civilized” world behind and traveling off into nature there is a very special moment that occurs when you realize there are no more footprints in front of you. If you have yet to experience this I highly suggest making it a goal in your life. To know that no one has passed farther in sufficient time that nature has reclaimed their mark is a sign that you have gone beyond the range of others. The path is now yours alone unless you should happen upon another headed the opposite way.
There are few things more jarring to me than one moment being alone in nature like that and then in the next see some horrible sign that others of a less caring nature have passed before and left their mark in ways that long outlasted their footprints. Trees hacked apart for sport, garbage left behind, fire damage and poopblossoms on the side of the trail will quickly remind you that nature can only do so much to wipe away the marks humans make.
Not all the damage is done by uncaring people. Some folks would never guess at the damage they do because they never think about it. That is my point, on many subjects heh, but especially this one; People should think more about what they are doing and what the impact of that act might be. Only by being self aware can we recognize the marks we’re leaving in our wake and do something to lessen them.
Now I don’t expect people to be perfect saints. In my mind it isn’t how close to perfect you can be but how far from perfectly awful you can get that matters. I’m always trying to be aware and do a better job of that myself.
Last October I found myself finishing setting up my camp on the shady side of East Baldpate off the Grafton Loop late in the afternoon. Returning from the creek after filtering water for the evening and next day I noticed the easily identifiable rubber bands from my tent pole laying in the dirt next to my pack. Kicking myself for being so sloppy I quickly picked them up and was about to stuff them back in the pole sack when I noticed my bands were where they were supposed to be. Someone else had dropped and left the identical bands in the campsite previously. If only I’d been paying more attention I could have picked them up earlier and avoided that thirty seconds of feeling guilty for being such a slob heh. Of course it would have been better if the person who dropped them had done their part in the first place.
I didn’t let that episode ruin my trip and really being thoughtful about our impact on nature doesn’t have to ruin anyone’s trip. It is the not being thoughtful that can really do a lot of damage. Next time I return to this topic I’ll start getting more into detail about the principles and simple ways you can leave your trails looking a little more less traveled by.