Low Impact Travel Techniques

Have some Mountain Manners

(And Don’t Love the Wilderness to Death)

Low Impact Ethics for Backcountry Travel

 

Remember while you’re traveling – while this may be just a weekend or a week for you, someone else will fill your traveling shoes when you leave. The cumulative impact of millions of visitors on our wildlands can have a seriously negative impact on the soil, plants, water and wildlife of the area. These low impact ethics will help you travel responsibly through this beautiful landscape. 

Love the Whole Experience

Use tools like binoculars to see wildlife and scenery up close without scaring animals or trampling plants

Use tools like binoculars to see wildlife and scenery up close without scaring animals or trampling plants

  • Get some good hiking boots or trail shoes
    • Waterproof hiking boots allow you to march through any condition the trail presents and still keep your feet dry.
  • Invest in some gaiters
    • These go over the top of your boots so water can’t leak in.
  • Get a good camera and binoculars
    • Take good pictures of wildlife and wildflowers, or see them up close, without having to scare the animals or trample the plants in order to get that great shot or view.
  • Get some wildflower, plant and tracking guides
    • Enhance your experience by learning more about this incredible land you are traveling through.

Love the plants

  • Stay on the trail
    Travel on durable surfaces such as trails, roads and rock to avoid crushing plants

    Travel on durable surfaces such as trails, roads and rock to avoid crushing plants

    • If you encounter a muddy or snowy spot, use those great new boots and gaiters and tromp right through it. Walking around muddy and snowy spots enlarges the trail, creates multiple trails in one area, causes both erosion and compaction, and kills all those beautiful flowers and plants you came to see.
    • Walk in a single file on the trail so as not to widen it
    • When encountering other people on the trail, “pull off” the trail only on durable surfaces such as dirt, gravel or rocks, and completely stop to let the others pass. Do not trample the plants just to get out of someone’s way.

 

 

 

 

Stay on the road

    • Do not drive out into our gorgeous meadows, no matter how easy it may be or fun it looks. This destroys plant life, compacts the soil, creates erosion, is extremely unsightly and makes a general enormous and often irrevocable mess of things.
    • When parking at trailheads, do not drive out onto the grass, flowers and meadows to create a space. Find a space to leave your car on pre-established parking spots. Squeeze in if necessary, being in tight and slightly inconvenient parking is better than destroying the wilderness.
  • Use only established campsites
    • Don’t start branching out into untrammeled ground. Keep your campsite tight, making sure you conduct all your activities of washing dishes, sleeping, hanging out, etc. off of vegetation
  • Break on durable surfaces
    • Chose a rock or bare ground off the trail for snack breaks and lunch.

Love the water

  • Urinate at least 200 feet from lakes and streams
    Conduct all activities - such as camping, washing dishes, cooking, urinating and defecating 200 feet away from any body of water.

    Conduct all activities – such as camping, washing dishes, cooking, urinating and defecating 200 feet away from any body of water.

    • Try to focus on unvegetated areas. Animals are attracted to the salts in our urine and may defoliate plants in order to get the salts.
  • Deposit solid human waste in catholes
    • Dig a small hole 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
  • Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products
    • A great way to do this is to stick a used coffee sack in your pack. Put your used products in the coffee sack, roll the whole bundle in a plastic bag, put it in your pack, and toss it when you reach civilization again.
  • Camp at least 200 feet from lakes and streams
  • Wash dishes and yourself at least 200 feet from lakes and streams
    • Carry water to your washing spot, use small amounts of biodegradable soap, scatter strained dishwater over an unvegetated area so as not to attract animals who might subsequently eat the plants.

 Love the Earth

  • Pack it in, pack it out
    • Inspect your campsite, break or lunch area for trash you might have spilled. Pick up any food scraps or litter and pack it out. Be extra careful of the small items like twist ties, candy wrappers or cigarette butts.
    • Modern human food is not a natural occurrence in the backcountry. Leaving it behind can attract animals, which in turn become accustomed to humans. Animals that are accustomed to humans, especially bears, are often killed to avoid animal-human interactions. Pack out all leftover food, cooking grease or any material used to cook food, such as aluminum foil.
    • Packing it out includes things like orange peels, apple cores, or pistachio shells. These items appear as food to animals.
    • Stuffing some extra plastic bags in your pack or vehicle is a great way to make sure you can carry out your trash comfortably.
    • If you see someone else’s trash, pick it up and pack it out. Think about the health of the landscape and the experience of future visitors and this becomes an easy and rewarding task.
  • Especially pack out your toilet paper
    • Do not, under any circumstances, leave your toilet paper in the backcountry. Do not lay it on the ground or bury it. Animals will get into it and strew it everywhere. It is unsightly for other visitors, extremely unhygienic and it is litter. It will not disintegrate quickly in our cold environment. You wouldn’t throw litter out your car window, why would you do the equivalent in our backcountry? Gross. Put it in a bag or coffee sack and deposit in a trash receptacle back in civilization.
  • Plan and pack your meals and snacks so as to avoid litter
    • Leave excess packaging at home. Avoid small things that can easily fall out of your pocket – like twist ties.

Love the Wildness

Don't pick the wildflowers. Leave them as they are most importantly so they can continue to reproduce; and secondly so others may enjoy them

Don’t pick the wildflowers. Leave them as they are most importantly so they can continue to reproduce; and secondly so others may enjoy them

  • Leave the wildflowers
    • Do not, under any circumstances, pick the wildflowers. Flowers are the way in which plants reproduce and if you pick them, you threaten their very survival. Wildflowers hate being picked anyway and will not last in a vase in your house. They were made to be wild. Plus, as the Wildflower Capital of Colorado, Crested Butte and the surrounding area depends on these flowers for tourism, and therefore our income.
  • Respect the wildlife
    • Don’t feed or approach wildlife. This includes chipmunks or birds that might seem interested in you, or even appear to having been fed before. Feeding wildlife alters their behaviors, making them accustomed to humans and therefore open to harm. They may lose their ability to find food on their own, which may cost them their lives when humans aren’t around.
    • When camping, store food so that animals cannot get into it. Hang your food in a stuff sack in a nearby tree.
  • Honor the rocks and trees
    • Do not carve into rocks or trees. Carving into the bark of trees opens them up to disease and alters the wilderness experience for others. Carving into rocks is just plain obnoxious.

 

Love Your Neighbors

  • Plan to travel in a small group
    • Most folks visit our backcountry to get away from other people and noise, and find some solitude and quiet. Large groups can be a hindrance to this need.
    • If you’re traveling in a large group, break up into smaller groups and hike a good distance away from each other, or take different trails altogether
  • Give folks some space
    Travel in small groups and give folks some space so everyone can enjoy a piece of solitude and quiet on the trail.

    Travel in small groups and give folks some space so everyone can enjoy a piece of solitude and quiet on the trail.

    • Keep your distance from other recreationalists so they may enjoy the solitude and silence of the wilderness on their own terms.
    • There is no need to be on someone else’s heels. Take a break, eat a snack, snap a photo and let the distance between you widen.
    • Find your own spot. If you are lunching, taking a break, or camping, pull off the trail and break away from other people to help maintain the quality of their experience. Use durable surfaces such as a rock or bare ground for your breaks.
  • Listen to nature
    • We all understand the primal urge to howl at the moon or hear your own echo bounce through the valley. But please respect the desires of others for silence and solitude and keep your human made noises down.
    • Many come to the wilderness to get away from technology. Turn any gadgets you’re carrying with you such as cell phones off or on silence. Avoid yacking away, if you even can get a signal, around other people.

Love Making a Proper Fire

  • Know if any fire restrictions are in place
    • We live in an extremely arid place. Your carelessness of building a fire during dangerous conditions can literally threaten our homes, forests and livelihoods.
  • Use only existing fire rings
    • The intense, concentrated heat of a campfire sterilizes the ground beneath it making it hard if not impossible for plants to regrow in that space for many, many years. Avoid at all costs making a fire ring next to a pre-existing fire ring. This is absurd and just damages more and more soil, thereby making the spot undesirable for humans, plants and animals
  • Keep fires small
    • Use only dead and downed wood. Do not cut branches from trees or bushes, dead or alive. A good size for firewood is about the size of your wrist, or something that can be broken easily with your bare hands.
  • Put it out completely
  • Use a lightweight stove for backcountry cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.

This guide is by no means comprehensive and there are many techniques to developing and instilling a true wilderness ethic of respect and proper behavior within yourself and your travel companions. A good resource for more detailed information on low impact travel ethics is through the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics website at www.lnt.org. In particular click on the “Learn” tab, then scroll to the “Seven Principles” link. If you use motors to experience the wildlands around us, check out www.treadlightly.org for more specific information in that area. Click on “Education” then “Learn” then “Recreation Tips” for a good place to begin according to your sport.

Originally printed in the Crested Butte Magazine summer 2015 edition, page 105. For a direct electronic link to the article visit: http://issuu.com/crestedbuttemagazine/docs/cbms15_digital_linked_small/107?e=1473410/13026661

For the corresponding article entitled, “Why We Need Wilderness” on page 96 of the Crested Butte Magazine summer 2015 edition visit: http://issuu.com/crestedbuttemagazine/docs/cbms15_digital_linked_small/99?e=1473410/13026661

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Need Supplies?

As you gear up for our busy “on” seasons, be sure to let Molly know if you need any new signs, Employee Fact Sheet, remittance envelopes or other such materials.

 

Tell the World You Love 1%!

Remember to include the 1% for Open Space logo on your own website, ads and other media materials. Contact Molly if you need the logo or desire specific wording to brag about all you’re doing to preserve open space in Gunnison County.