Outdoor's Golden Rule
Recently there was a story in the news about an event that took place in Virginia Beach called Floatopia over the Memorial Day weekend. According to the Virginian Pilot, "Floatopia has been a mostly pleasant gathering of beachgoers and boaters meeting on a stretch of shoreline for a party.” In the past the event has had anywhere between 500 and 1000 people attend. However, through the power of social media and great weather conditions, the word got out and this year’s event was much larger. Some spectators estimated well over 10,000 visitors. That’s a lot of people and a lot of trash. That’s exactly what all those people left behind, a lot of trash. The visitors to the beach gathered, had a good time and left the mess behind. They forgot about the golden rule of outdoors, leave no trace.
With spring quickly turning into summer and more of us are heading outdoors to our favorite parks, beaches and campsites here in Wisconsin. I thought it would be a good to offer some simple tips on how you can leave not trace as you head out to enjoy Wisconsin.
- Whether you’re planning on a short-day trip or a whole weekend out in the wild. Plan ahead, know where you’re going and what will be available to you for rest areas, dump stations and wood for camping. If you’re a backpacker, be prepared to know how to deal with human waste and hygiene products that you may need. Try not to bathe or clean dishes right in streams and rivers. Carry water to your camp and use environmentally friendly soaps and as little water as you can to do your cleaning. Knowing the rules of your campsites and trails will make getting ready easier, allowing you to enjoy your time out in the outdoors even more. Remember the point is to make sure when you leave, you’re taking what you need to take with you and disposing of it properly.
- In my opinion this is the one that needs to be treated with the utmost respect. The first thing you’ll need to make sure of is if there have been any established fire bans. Our summers can sometimes be very dry and hot. Because of this, fire bans can be put into place. So knowing whether or not you can have a fire is the first step. If allowed, make sure you’re using a provided fire ring if available. Keep your fires small, there’s no reason to have a fire large enough that they think you’re signaling for help. Only burn wood that is made available to you from the park or campsite that you are visiting. Don’t bring wood from home. Doing this could introduces new parasites and diseases to the area. Most important, make sure the fire is completely out before moving on. Pour some water on coals or cover with dirt to make sure there is no heat left before leaving.
Look But Don’t Touch
- This is one I feel like I’m constantly telling my kids, no matter where we are. I always say it’s ok to look, but don’t touch anything. The same saying holds true when exploring the outdoors. One of the great things about Wisconsin is the beauty it offers. It’s meant to be seen and not touched or changed. One way to help with this is to carry a camera. If you’re busy taking pictures and enjoying the beauty, it’s less likely you’ll need to interject yourself into it. Leave rocks, plants and other things you might run across alone. Don’t dig holes, build forts or make trails that don’t need to be made or maintained. The less you do to make an impression on the land, the better.
Leave the Animals Alone
- I understand this one is a tricky one. Many of you put out trail cameras to monitor hunting lands and I think that’s fine. I think anytime we can observe wildlife and learn more about their patterns is helpful to make sure they are healthy. My point here is don’t harass animals. If you see a deer, fox or maybe some elk, just observe and enjoy. Don’t chase or stalk so you can get closer just to say you were close. And please if you see young animals with their mothers, give them space and they will look at you as not threat. Remember they are still wild animals and can be unpredictable. If you enjoy bringing your pet with you, make sure you have complete control of them. Don’t allow them to chase animals. And make sure you’re also cleaning up after them as well.
- There’s the golden rule in outdoors and then there’s the golden rule in life, Treat others the way you would like to be treated. Respect your fellow outdoors person and make sure that they will enjoy a quality outdoor experience when you’re gone. Be courteous to fellow hikers on the trails. Be patient with families that have small children. Never assume a dog is ok to walk up to and pet, ask the owners. Do crowd others when camping and keep noise levels low. Most people enjoy the sounds of nature, let them listen to that instead of loud talking and music. I’ve always found that Wisconsin is a great place and I’ve haven’t encountered any issues while out and enjoying nature.
The thing to remember is to leave as little trace as possible. When I go out on a hike, I want to see Wisconsin as it is without any alterations or modifications. If you see trash, pick it up and take care of it. Be an example for others and you’re children. Let’s not let Wisconsin make the news because we were to lazy to care about it. After all, we all want this beautiful state to be available so that the next generation can be some of Wisconsin’s Outdoor Explorers.