When I first moved to Jasper I really had no idea what I was doing. Thankfully my ingrained Canadian impulse to be polite and courteous kicked in and the rest, well I just picked up through experience.
Here are some of the things I’ve learned over the past five summers…
- Stay on the trail: Yes, sometimes the trail is muddy or difficult to track but it really is important for a few reasons. Leaving the trail creates parallel tracks and widens existing trails. While this may seem desirable it further impedes the development of flora in the area. A common sight is switchback shortcuts. Tempting, but doing this erodes the land and prevents things from growing where they want to.
- Leave objects undisturbed: Rocks, flowers, antlers, fossils are natural objects and should remain where they are. While the flowers are beautiful do not pick wild flowers. It allows other people to enjoy the beauty of nature after you.
- Don’t feed the wildlife: Just don’t do it. Doesn’t matter how large or small. Don’t do it. It’s illegal and harmful to their health and behavior as well as your safety.
- Pack out what you pack in: Any garbage you create must be taken back with you. Carry a plastic bag and if you’re feeling extra generous, pick up any garbage you see left behind by other hikers.
- Do your business away from others: Sometimes facilities are not provided in which case any toilet duties should be done far away from trails, campsites, and at least 50 m away from lakes or streams. Dig a small hole and restore the ground to its original state when you’re done.
- Keep pets on leash: It’s always a joy to bring along Sparky for a hike but make sure you keep him on a leash. This is for his safety as well as yours.
- Remember Smoky the Bear: In the backcountry campfires are generally not allowed but if they are consider using your gas stove for cooking anyway. If you choose to light a fire, keep it small and extinguish it completely before leaving. Drench, stir, drench, stir as many times until you feel comfortable leaving the site.
- Dispose properly: Soap, toothpaste, detergent, even biodegradable soaps are pollutants when they are dumped in rivers and streams. Dispose of wash water on well-drained soil away from bodies of water.
- Be considerate: When sharing a campsite or backcountry shelter with other hikers, be considerate of their space. Be extra considerate around horseback riders and listen to the guides when passing a group.
I’m sure there are plenty more tips I could give, and will add as I come up with more. If you think of anything feel free to add it in the comment section.
Just consider how you would want to be treated and what you would still like to see on the trails, twenty years from now.