J & I are now “master educators” for Leave No Trace (LNT). We spent 5 days with 7 other like-minded students and 2 instructors. Most of our course was in the backcountry of the Grand Canyon, practicing what we preached.
J & I hadn’t been to the GC since we lived in Phoenix (2004), so it was nice to be back. Plus, we hiked about 14 miles on the Grandview Trail, which we hadn’t been on.
There were many reasons for J & I to get this certification. Overall, it was a good career move for us and the direction we are going together. We can teach awareness workshops on the 7 principles of LNT (shameless plug – let us know if you want us to teach one for your group/school!). But the bigger picture is that this is where our passion lies given the fact we spend the majority of our time out of doors. You can stop reading my soapbox now if I can step away the next time you bring up the 2016 presidential candidates.
Now, a lot of people–namely my sister–wondered what in the world we would be learning that we didn’t already know over the 5 long days. “Isn’t it pretty simple?” She asked. “Bury your poop. The end.” Even I wondered how much more detail we could get into. J & I had been practicing LNT ethics for a long time, and there were some we practiced well, and others where improvement was needed. I think across the spectrum, we were somewhere in the middle. But, we were both pleasantly surprised at how many layers there are to LNT and how the master educator course brought us to the next level. A lot of the course was focused on teaching methods for different audiences so we could effectively spread the word. The course was structured so each student was assigned a principle and had to give a same lesson on it, thus showcasing a variety of teaching methods and multiple aspects of each principle.
I think the best way to capture some of the essence of the whole course would be to state the 7 LNT principles and share my biggest takeaways.
1) Plan ahead and prepare.
Did you read my post on planning for the Te Araroa trail and my to do list? I would say this LNT principle is in my DNA.
2) Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
We are good at picking out durable camp spots. But hiking is another story. As much as I try to avoid getting so dirty on the trail, true LNT means going straight through the mud rather than around it. New Zealand is muddy. Gulp. Good thing we have good boots.
3) Dispose of waste properly.
If you followed us while we hiked the AT, you know how many holes J dug during our 141-day journey (55 times FYI). He is very proud of this and will demonstrate to anyone who gives a poop (pun very intended) how to properly dig a cathole. Well, to become a master educator, you have to be comfortable using leaves and rocks to wipe (and bury those). Okay, that’s not a requirement, but wouldn’t it be more fun if it were? Regardless, using leaves and rocks means being a hardcore LNT follower. We both stepped up our game and tried the rock method. We are big fans and will do this anytime we can going forward. I’ll spare you anymore details or pictures.
4) Leave what you find.
The backcountry isn’t always just trees and rocks. It’s uber exciting when we come upon old mining or farming equipment, caves and even structures. So what happens when people take a piece a home for their bookshelf or vandalize what’s there?
We’ve come upon lots of graffiti lately over some of the petroglyphs on this tour of southern Utah National Parks and I can tell you firsthand how uncool and disturbing it is to our experience. So my PSA on this one would be to be an LNT hero who picks up garbage along the trail, but leaves everything else as is. I’m pretty certain none of my blog fans are graffiti artists, but you just never know who is reading!
5) Minimize campfire impacts.
This was actually my lesson to teach and here’s where I would say we definitely leave no trace. This is because we never do fires in the backcountry, except when we are at an established campsite with an established and legal fire ring and the mosquitoes are out for blood.
6) Respect wildlife.
There are 250 squirrel bites every year at the Grand Canyon. Do you know why? Because people feed them. And it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt (or get the plague from the fleas they carry)!
For one of the skits, our instructors did a little role playing as a squirrel and human. For another skit, J, acting as a bear, was interviewed on how he feels when people take selfies with him. You had to be there, but both were hilarious. The bottom line is that we forget we are visitors in the animal kingdom. The squirrels, marmots, and whatever else have been habituated to eating people food because of people. The bears could attack during selfies. Lesson learned — keep wildlife wild. Rule of thumb — hold your thumb at an arm’s length and if you can cover the animal, you are a safe distance.
7) Be considerate of other visitors.
We’ve always thought we are considerate, but I think we could always do a better job of this and learned a lot from our discussions. Have you met me? I can always find things to talk about and on the trail, this chatter could be annoying to others.
Thank you for allowing me to shout from my soapbox, aka my blog. Will J & I continue to leave a trace? Sure. The reality is that no one is never going to leave NO trace in the backcountry. But, LNT provides ethics that guide us to leave less of an impact enabling us and those after us to have a good experience. Win-win, right?
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