Shenandoah National Park, May 1-5, 2016 — Some hikers are pigs. No doubt about it. I saw plenty of that on my AT thru hike. Being involved with ridgerunning has driven it home like a pile driver. That’s why I signed up for the Leave No Trace Master Educator Course taught by the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS).
We’ve got to get better at helping people do the right thing when they are in the back country or it will evolve into a place we don’t recognize. Educating those who use the great out doors is important. So for me, I’m already in with a dime so why not a dollar?
In addition to trashing the woods, some folks can’t resist making the maximum impact they can. Most times they are simply ignorant. These folks can be educated. Others not so much. There is a “no rules for me” crowd that is killing it for everyone else. If the trend continues, future generations won’t have a lot left in a pristine state to enjoy.
Now you know why.
(If this weren’t a family-friendly blog, I’d show you some outrageously gross behavior.)
Pinnacles featuring mouse-proof storage! Rededicated the previous day.
Saturday night I reported to the newly renovated Pinnacles Research Center in Shenandoah’s central district to kick off five days of advanced Leave No Trace (LNT) training designed to teach us how to train LNT trainers and to give more effective classes ourselves. The idea is to help instill an outdoor ethic – good behavior when nobody is watching.
The group was small. Seven students with two instructors. The course is mostly practicum in the field with each student required to present a training session on one of the seven principles of LNT. They are: 1) Plan ahead and prepare. 2) Travel and camp on well-used surfaces. 3) Dispose of waste properly. 4) Leave what you find. 5) Minimize campfire impacts. 6) Respect wildlife. 7) Be considerate of other visitors. If you’ve read this blog, you’ve found it has touched on these concepts plenty of times.
My fellow students were a delight. Each cares a great deal about the outdoor environment. Their diverse backgrounds included a college student who works at a Scout camp in the summer, a professional Boy Scouts of America scouter, a county park environmental educator, a Vermont Green Mountain Club summit steward, a college professor and more.
All told, we were a good humored lot that could not stop talking shop.
We would suffer the first day indoors followed by three nights and four days tramping through Shenandoah’s Hazel Mountain wilderness area. Weather forecast: Liquid sunshine garnished by warm and cold temperatures with wind and thunderstorms on the side. Yum! At one point the weather abruptly changed to pea-sized hail and the pellets stung the hey out of my bare arms.
Along the way we slept in four-person circus tents and prepared meals from scratch. These are not my favorite ways to approach backpacking. I like to be in control and don’t like the time and mess required to do dishes in the back country. Nevertheless, this arrangement turned out to be simple, efficient and actually facilitated some of the lessons we were studying. It reminded me of being in the Army and Boy Scouts.
Our field kitchen.
The scenery alone is worth the time.