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[pct-l] LNT 5- Hiking HARD!

Hello All -

Nope...I ain't going to talk about those "hardbodies" that we thru-hikers
get to enjoy after a month or so <g>.

Commercial break:  Remember that we ALL do damage every time we visit the
backcountry...and LNT is simply the art of minimizing that damage.

Camp and Travel On Durable Surfaces

This LNT "principle" (guideline, whatever...) doesn't seem to generate too
much controversy (darn!). It turns out that there are some very simple and
obvious ways that we can easily minimize a lot of the damage that we hordes
of humans do when we crowd thru the backcountry.

On The Trail -

The trail is just a long skinny piece of highly compacted soil!  We have
killed it deader than a doornail.  If it starts to sprout veggies,
maintainers whomp it til it's dead again.  In fact, we have made the
conscious decision to sacrifice that long skinny piece of land for the
utility of having a trail in that particular location.

Most times, that decision didn't come any too easy.  Lots of thought went
into things like: land rights, permissions, cost tradeoffs, optimum design,
support infrastructure, etc.  Somebody went to a lot of trouble to build it
(or to upgrade it to modern standards).  Somebody puts a LOT of sweat and
personal time into taking care of that trail.  All told, "we" have paid a
significant price for the utility of having that trail available for our

Even if we only use the measure of "cost" (when we judge the value of our
trails), the value would come out quite high.  If we get real and add in
the measure of "worth to each individual," it becomes obvious that most of
our trails are truly valuable enough to become national treasures.  We PAID
for that trail...let's don't waste it!

If there is a trail heading our way, we need to get on it and stay on it.
The trail is already dead...the incremental damage caused by our passage
will be quite low.  Widening the trail at mud puddles, cutting switchbacks,
and stepping off the trail to walk side by side are all pretty obvious
examples of common ways that we tend to wander off the compacted trail
tread.  Once we step off that tread, we start compacting the fresh soil
where we are walking.  Before long, we have killed us a new trail...which
has NONE of the value of the old one.  In fact, the widening mud bogs,
erosion (especially at the switchbacks!), and general eyesore from multiple
trails often serves to greatly decrease the value of the main trail we
should be using!

Hey...sometimes the trail just doesn't go where we want to!  No
problemo...there IS a way to minimize our impact <g>.  We need to spread
out so that everybody doesn't keep stepping in the same place (helps keep
the compaction down to levels that have a chance to self-repair in the "off
season").  Look for the most durable surfaces to walk on (rocks, bare
mineral soil, snow, dry grass clumps, thick pine duff, etc.).

All but the most durable surfaces have times when they are unusually
vulnerable to damage...perhaps we all need to think twice before going out
into a backcountry softened by prolonged heavy rains, spring breakup, etc.

Developing the skills needed to use a map and compass for land nav keeps us
from having to mess with a lot of signs, blazes, cairns, engineers tape,
and other intrusive trail markings.

Another trail tidbit usually gets stuck in here because there isn't really
anywhere else it fits <g>.  If we meet horses on the trail we need to go
into a "self-protection" mode.  Horses spook easily...they are a LOT bigger
than us, and their feet are HARD <g>.  I am told by horse packers that, by
far, the easiest thing for everyone is for the hiker (the smaller and most
mobile of the bunch <g>) to step a pace or two off the trail on the
downhill side.  As we do, we need to check to see if we have any bandannas
or shirttails that might be fluttering in the breeze (hold them still if we

Talk to the horse's rider in a normal tone of voice ("Nice day," "Do they
kick?," "Got any Snickers bars?"...).  Apparently the horses are not able
to tell where a hiker leaves off and a backpack starts.  We look like a
large strangely shaped lump to them (kinda like a bear...smell funny,
too...<g>).  Stepping to the downhill side makes us look smaller/lower to
the horses (allows us to appear much less threatening) and doing the calm
talking helps them realize that it is just a human somewhere inside that
lump.  We probably aughta save the discussion on our thoughts about horses
on the trail until we later sit with the riders off-trail somewhere...if we
stay fairly cooth they might offer us one of the beers they often have room
to carry <g>.

Hmmmm...this is getting longer than I had planned.  I will split off the
"At Camp" part into another message.

See you at "LNT 6- Camping HARD!"

- Charlie II  AT (MEGA'93)
             PCT (Mex@Can'95)

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