Respecting Nature: Adventures in Hiking

If you hike often, you probably pay a good bit of attention to what you’re walking on, such as a path or trail. However, not all hiking treks are done on well-defined earth. In fact, it’s not unusual to hike through the complete wilderness, depending on where you live.

Part of hiking is getting out in nature, and the thing most hikers love most is the feeling of untouched scenery. This creates a problem if we don’t respect the nature around us. We will lose the very thing we love the most about our hikes if we are not careful. This doesn’t mean that we should always follow the trodden path, however. It simply means we need to learn to respect everything around us.

This goes beyond making sure we aren’t throwing trash on the ground. There are several guidelines to follow if you don’t want to wreak havoc on natural surroundings. Many are covered by the Leave No Trace method, which has seven basic principles.

  • Always Prepare and Plan
  • Only Hike on Solid Surfaces
  • Properly Dispose of Waste
  • Leave Behind What You Find
  • Lessen Campfire Impacts
  • Be Respectful of All Wildlife
  • Be Considerate of Others

These principles mainly guide us towards paying attention. While some actions, like tromping through the woods and breaking saplings, are apparent, other actions, like importing firewood with foreign bugs, are not obvious at all. It takes a certain mindset to plan and prepare for an outing while ensuring you aren’t bringing anything untoward into the woods.

For instance, let’s say you take your pup hiking with you. Part of respecting nature is cleaning up after your dog. Their excrement can have bacteria that are unknown to the surroundings, and introducing this bacteria can have lasting negative impacts. Similarly, you should always ensure your hiking boots are clean before you head out. Ignoring little things like this add up over time, and humans have already changed enough of the world.

If you follow the guidelines above, it’s quite okay to step off a path. No one’s saying you can’t interact with nature at all. Still, if you pick up a rock, put it back exactly as you found it. If a log is blocking the main path, cut it and leave the wood on either side. Everything that exists in nature needs to stay there. That rock could be the home for microorganisms crucial to soil health, while that log might be where the next generation of fireflies are born as glow worms. Nature is cyclical, and it’s our job to ensure we don’t break the cycle.

So, whether you’re a hiker, a camper, or simply someone out for a quick stroll in the neighborhood, respect the nature around you, so it continues to thrive for millennia to come. If possible, look with your eyes and not with your hands, too. Now go out and enjoy the great outdoors!