“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”
Aldo Leopold, American environmentalist and author
The outdoors offer beauty in the form of crystal-clear lakes, shady trails, and spectacular views from mountain peaks that can be appreciated through hiking. Yet hikers sometimes fail to see themselves as part of a bigger picture, where they rely on the bounties of nature and are at the mercy of the wilderness. Failing to respect your surroundings can make hiking less enjoyable, even perilous. As trekkers continue to damage natural wonders through irresponsible acts, outdoor destinations such as individual mountains and national parks could be closed from the public.
Nature-friendly hiking can be achieved in many ways and here are five among them:
1. Refrain from Littering
Simply put, do not leave your trash wherever you feel like doing it. Nature is not a vast expanse that you can use as a waste bin. Garbage does not only make the surroundings unsightly but also attract flies, even large dangerous animals like bears. Food and drinks are a necessary part of hiking but you have to dispose of leftover wrappers and plastic bottles on designated spots. While strolling on the trail, just carry them on trash bags you can buy at supermarkets.
2. Be Responsible with Non-Biodegradable Packaging and Chemical Substances
Many forms of packaging today are made of plastic and other synthetic materials that do not decompose readily. Once littered during a nature hike, they linger and ruin the landscape. They also float on bodies of water when washed away and could cause clogging. Waste segregation solves this problem. You can also choose biodegradable over non-biodegradable packaging and eating utensils to minimize environmental impact.
Be mindful when bringing detergents, cleaning liquids, soap, shampoo, and similar things on your trek. Avoid spilling them recklessly, particularly into streams, rivers, and lakes. If your batteries run out, do not simply throw them on the ground. Hazardous chemicals could leak out from the casing, impacting soil quality and even wildlife. Dispose of them appropriately.
3. Avoid Starting an Uncontrolled Fire
A campfire brings life to hikers in the darkness of the night. When preparing one, be sure to clear the surrounding ground of dried leaves, twigs, and other objects that could be set alight easily. A bigger campfire requires a wider space to be secured from flammable materials. Placing large rocks in a circle around the kindling would help in containing the flames. When winds blow too much sparks, you might have to put the fire out.
Cigarettes may also cause destructive fires. When you are smoking, extinguish the spark completely from a cigarette butt by stomping on it. Drop it on open ground, away from plant material that is easily ignited.
4. Leave the Plant Life Alone
When walking across a meadow full of flowers, it can be difficult to resist from plucking some of them. Just keep on resisting and tell your fellow hikers to do the same. Despite saying you will only pick a few, others will think similarly and that meadow will end up losing its floral appeal. Consider this advice when you see attractive flowers wherever you are on an outdoor adventure.
Do not pluck leaves or branches for no reason at all. The same idea applies to fruits, especially if someone from the local community owns trees that bear them. Get your hands on plants only for survival purposes or if vegetation blocks the trail and has to be cleared.
5. Respect and Follow Advice from Locals
Pay attention to the words of local guides and the inhabitants of the place where you are hiking. Heed their advice, particularly those involving customs that preserve the environment. They do their best to take care of the land so they can reap from it through sustainable agriculture, forestry, and tourism.