Monday, July 6, 2015

Respecting Society While Avoiding Civilization

The Keystone Trails Association puts out a monthly newsletter about hiking, etc.  The KTA is a sister organization to my Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC).  KTA maintains the next section of the Appalachian Trail in central and northern PA.

Below is the entire text of a piece in their latest newsletter entitled Respecting Society While Avoiding Civilization.  The focus is on Principle #7, Be Considerate of Other Visitors, of the Leave No Trace philosophy.

While I would say state in general I embrace Leave No Trace, when I actually read this piece, turns out there were a couple of items that made me kinda raise my eyebrows.  I've BOLDed them below:

“Civilization has a precarious hold on us and there is an undoubted attraction in a life of absolute freedom once it has been tasted. The call o’ the wild is in the blood of many of us and finds its safety valve in adventure.” - Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett
The words of this famed Royal Geographical Society explorer capture the intense draw of the wilderness for those of us who choose to experience it. Our daily lives are full of noise and the metronome of society relentlessly marks time at a seemingly unsustainable rate. We lucky few that have deciphered life’s code and discovered the importance of communing with nature understand exactly what Colonel Fawcett proclaimed.
Leave No Trace is not entirely focused on minimizing impact on nature, but also on ensuring the tranquility of each person’s outdoor experience. Embracing Leave No Trace Principle #7, Be Considerate of Other Visitors, will make each adventure more enjoyable for you and those with which you share the trail. The keys are silent respect and constant courtesy.
Keep noise to a minimum. Silence your phone [or leave it in the car] and commit to not taking calls while on the trail. Nature has an amazing soundtrack, but, if you choose to provide your own, use headphones whenever listening to a portable music device. Avoid whistling and loud conversation to keep from disturbing wildlife and other travelers. To reduce impact on the trail…and your sanity…try not to plan trips on holidays and busy weekends whenever possible. Brightly colored clothing and equipment can be disturbing, as well. Wherever practical, choose earth-toned colors to lessen visual impacts.
Many trails are multi-use and experience the passage of hikers, horses, and mountain bikers. Groups leading or riding livestock have the right-of-way, and hikers and bicyclists should move off the trail to the downhill side. Horses are easily startled, so talk quietly to the riders as they pass, give them plenty of space, and avoid any sudden movements. Mountain bikers should be in control at all times and avoid excessive speed through blind corners and unknown terrain. Always politely announce your presence before passing others and proceed with caution only when your calls are acknowledged.
Do not become an obstacle for other travelers. Take rest breaks off-trail and only on durable surfaces. Do not leave equipment on the trail and never prank passersby. Game playing is for backyards, city parks, and designated frontcountry areas. Leave any gates you encounter as you found them and remove any signs of your passage. Always keep your pets under control, clean up behind them, and follow land use regulations.
Ethical behavior should be habitual, and outdoor ethics begin before the trailhead. First, commit to applying all Seven Principles on every journey. These are not an ala carte menu to select from or on a scorecard to keep, but a holistic methodology for stewardship of our natural world. We are all part of nature…even those that choose to resist the notion. For those that hear the call o’ the wild and declare their love of nature and care of the environment, there can be only one path: Leave No Trace.
Explore Responsibly!

My thoughts?

--I sometimes whistle on the trail and actually don't plan to change that.  
--And I think that brightly colored clothing may be of benefit in a search-and-rescue situation.
--The item about not pranking people seems odd and out of place--is this behavior such a serious problem that it needs to be called out? 
--And the game-playing prohibition--again, is this truly a problem in the backcountry?

Please don't think I'm being nitpicky--it's just that these couple items stood out to me.  I do get and concur in the overall philosophy, however.

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