Okay... (deep breath) I am going to take this moment to vent on a subject that I take very seriously. Every time I finish a trail run or a hike anywhere, I end up with my hands full of empty bottles and my pockets filled with candy wrappers that I collected along the way. Who is the culprit? Well, I am going to call these slapdash, narcissistic, grimy, big-headed polluters Sly Sludge (the smog villain from Captain Planet).
Do you remember growing up watching Smokey the Bear cartoon commercials with the "Only you…"? How about Woodsy the Owl who said "Give a Hoot...?" Can you finish those sentences? Well, probably the bigger question is, can the younger generations finish these statements too? Hearing these messages growing up instills an important concern for the world we live in and makes us aware that keeping our natural settings natural is a team effort. The Sludge's in the world may need a refresher (no pun intended).www.hikesafe.com
- Stay on the trail or else you will speed up erosion which is one of the most dangerous effects of over-appreciation. This type of damage takes years to repair. Also, respect and stay off private property.
- Prevent forest fires! Smokey the Bear will tell you how if you don't know the rules and laws already. www.smokeybear.com
- Carry in, carry out! Do not leave your garbage behind. Pick up any trash that a Sly Sludge left behind in a sanitary and safe way if you can. Also, if nature calls, make sure you answer back in a way that minimizes the impact on fragile plants and water flow.
- Take only photograph! You may have had a wonderful time and think it to be harmless to take home a natural souvenir such as a rock, shell, or flower but imagine how that park would look if everyone decided to do that too.
- Don’t feed wildlife. You may be welcoming a dangerous situation for you, other people, or for the animal.
- Report vandalism to the park management and speak up if you catch someone in the act.
- Share the trail with other trail users and be friendly. Bikers yield to hikers, downhill hikers yield to uphill hikers, and everyone yields to horses.
- Be quiet so other hikers can enjoy nature and not your echoes or cell phone rings.
- Don’t throw rocks over cliffs! There could be people either climbing or hanging out at the bottom who may be on the receiving end.
- Be prepared! Can't say this one enough. Have a trail map, know how to read a map, wear proper clothing, stay within your ability, and plan for any situation. The Appalachian Mountain Club has a great list of essentials for the Northeast: http://www.outdoors.org/recreation/hiking/hiking-gear.cfm