Think about times you have been in the outdoors; it sometimes feels like you are the first person to experience your pristine surroundings, the first person to soak in the beauty of the trees and hear the flowing creek. Then think about other times, where you hiked in miles to a remote destination, only to find garbage and destruction. Obviously, the first experience is preferable; this is why SAHC decided to teach a Leave No Trace Trainer Course this spring! We were able to do so with help from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. The ATC sponsors a grant annually using funds from the Appalachian Trail specialty license plates.
Leave No Trace
Leave No Trace is a set of outdoor ethics that promote conservation and help to minimize recreation-related impacts in the outdoors. There are seven principles that are used to educate and guide recreationists in sustainable minimum impact practices that mitigate or eliminate human impacts in the outdoors.
The Seven Principles
- Plan Ahead and Prepare
- Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Dispose of Waste Properly
- Leave What You Find
- Minimize Campfire Impacts
- Respect Wildlife
- Be Considerate of Other Visitors
Leave No Trace Trainer Course
The Leave No Trace Trainer Course was a free, two day certification course. The participants on the course learned how to be effective LNT trainers, so that they can continue to educate others on best practices! The course was taught at SAHC’s Elk Hollow Property. Participants arrived on Thursday morning and had a day full of education. The instructors, Michelle and Emily, taught lessons on LNT History, teaching techniques, and the Plan Ahead and Prepare ethic.
Then it was time for students to break up into pairs. Each pair picked out two ethics that they would like to teach, and we’re given the resources that they needed to teach them. Throughout the rest of the course, it was up to the students to teach the other 6 ethics. This led to some awesome group discussions, fun games, and overall great information!
On Thursday the group brought teaching to the trail, they woke up at 4:30am and hiked up to Little Hump to catch the sunrise and eat breakfast. After breakfast the group continued on the AT to the summit of Hump Mountain. Along the way we stopped to teach LNT lessons and to discuss different LNT observations made along the trail. By seeing and experiencing impacts on trail the group was able to make connections that may not have been possible in a classroom.
The participants are all avid users of the outdoors, but still felt they learned new ways to reduce their impacts. Some realized that they need to walk further from streams to use the bathroom; while others we’re shocked about the amount of time it actually takes for an orange peel to fully break down (up to two years). Thank you again to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy for providing this opportunity! These participants will continue to be good stewards of the outdoors and the AT, by passing on the knowledge they gained from this course!
The second part of the grant we we’re given was to conduct Leave No Trace outreach on the Appalachian Trail at a popular junction! On Friday a group went up to Carver’s Gap to table, and talk to hikers about potential impacts and specific Appalachian Trail LNT practices. Over the course of the day we talked to over 60 people about Leave No Trace on the Appalachian Trail. A big topic that came up was the shortcuts between Carver’s Gap and Grassy Ridge. Many people did not know that using those shortcuts can cause major degradation on the balds including erosion and damaging sensitive habitats. After that conversation with many hikers, many decided they would no longer use these shortcuts. Although this outreach event only lasted one day, we hope the hikers we reached will continue to share this knowledge and start the conversation with others to help us preserve these special places!