Outdoor principles preserve resources <br>
After a few years of searching for the perfect job, I landed one that allowed me to do what I loved to do while amassing enough comp time to take road trips throughout the Southwest – I got paid to take people hiking. I also managed to visit the Grand Canyon, oh, about 25 or 30 times. My boots hit trails on both rims, I ran the river a couple of times and stayed at all manners of lodging from a campsite at Mather campground to the Mary Colter suite at the El Tovar. In all my travels, no place has touched my soul quite like the Grand Canyon.
In those years of camping and backpacking, I progressed from Sterno stoves and wool long underwear to featherlight sleeping bags and GPS units. I also learned a thing or two about outdoor travel: I learned that preparation is critical, good outdoor gear is affordable and a miserable trip is avoidable. I hope to pass that information on to those who read this column or come to the Inner Canyon Backpacker’s Shop at the Canyon Village Marketplace.
Every week I’ll present information and ideas intended to make your experience at the Grand Canyon a little more rewarding. You’ll see information on trails and equipment, tricks and techniques from easy, one-pot recipes to family hikes, and tips from local hikers and veteran visitors to enhance your trek down the trail. And if you get tired of the Grand Canyon trails (is that possible?) I’ll even include some hiking and camping suggestions for other places of interest in the Four Corners area.
The foundation of any hiking, camping or backpacking trip should be the use of low impact skills and ethics. Skills, according to Webster’s, are talents, abilities or aptitudes. Ethics are moral values, principles or beliefs. Crunch those two ideas together and you get a rough idea of the how and the why we take to the trails. Sometimes ability and reason come across as positive aspects of the traveler; oftentimes they are detrimental to both the traveler and the environment.
A guideline of principles used to inspire responsible outdoor recreation was initiated in the 1970s by the U.S. Forest Service, who later partnered with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) to further develop the program. By 1994, Leave No Trace, Inc., a non-profit organization based out of Boulder, Colo., teamed with the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to create the Seven Principles for minimum impact outdoor ethics. Today, Dana Watts and her staff have grown into the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, further emphasizing their desire to educate the public on responsible outdoor ethics.
Like the rules of the road for driving responsibly, the Seven Principles of Leave No Trace should be used by anyone who ventures outdoors, whether on a multi-day trek or a two-hour jaunt. They are:
plan ahead and prepare
travel and camp on durable surfaces
dispose of waste properly
leave what you find
minimize campfire impacts
be considerate of other visitors
Maybe you’ve sent away for your backpacking permit three months ago. Maybe you just rolled out of bed this morning and decided to hike the Bright Angel Trail. Either way, all Seven Principles of Leave No Trace should be incorporated into your adventure. Not only do the principles cover responsible and ethical behavior in the outdoors, they also cover some state and federal laws.
Are you prepared, with adequate clothing, food, water and knowledge? When you’re on the trail, are you sticking to the trail and not cutting switchbacks. Is your trash going into your pocket, then into a trashcan, and not on the trail? Are you leaving natural and cultural features in their place? The Park Service has banned open fires below the Rim; are you abiding by their regulations?
Respecting wildlife means observing all wild critters from a distance, from a bull elk to a ground squirrel. Are you leaving trash that may negatively attract wildlife? And how about your fellow visitors – are you respecting them by keeping your voices low, your children under control and by sharing the trails?
All of us who visit the Grand Canyon and hike its trails do so for a reason – perhaps to achieve a personal goal, to experience the solitude of the inner Canyon, to add the Canyon to your list of backpacking achievements, or just to get out of the car and stretch your legs. How we prepare for the trip and conduct ourselves on the trail dictates how we, and how those we encounter, will remember the trip. Preparation, planning and proper equipment will make your hike a positive, memorable experience – one that you will want to repeat again and again.
For help in planning and outfitting your Grand Canyon experience, contact the Backcountry Information Center at 638-7875, the Canyon View Information Plaza, or the Inner Canyon Backpacker’s Shop at the Canyon Village Marketplace.