"Even when the rainbow seems to pass right by me....I'm still finding Gold in the clouds....."

26 June 2018


summer 2013
Hurricane Mountain/Gulf Brook lean-to 

Hiking Etiquette.  It's usually unwritten rules that one just sort of learns by going hiking or by having a daddy who taught you well.  (like mine did).  I also picked up hiking etiquette by reading hiking journals, blogs, and hiking guides.  And by observation of other hikers.

It struck me yesterday as I was hiking with a young adult new-to-mountain-climbing hiker, that I should have done a bit of teaching basic hiking etiquette as leader of this fitness group I organize.  

Here are some basic, usually common-sense, hiking "rules" for when you are on the trail/in the mountains.

photo used with permission by Bob Klann

  • CHECK IN! (IF REGISTRY AVAILABLE) This is a MUST. Trail registers are typically at the beginning of the trailhead (the start of the trail) or just a few hundred feet in. If you sign in, you are alerting the forest ranger in that area as to your plan and presence.  This way, if something happens, they know who is still on the trail. (ALWAYS CHECK OUT once you get back to the trail-head). Signing in usually involves the name of the group leader or your self, the number of people in your group, your destination (ex. to summit of Blue Mt, or to Mud Lake, etc), how long you plan on staying (ex. 1 day) and a phone number in case of emergency. DO NOT GIVE YOUR OWN CELL NUMBER because you are in the wilderness or typically on a trail with no coverage!  Rather, give the number of the group leader's spouse or a trusted adult who knows where you are and what your plan is.  Which reminds me:  always leave your itinerary with someone back at your home. 
sign in register at Mt Adams trailhead
Photo courtesy of Cheryl A Blask
Sept 2015

  • CARRY IN/CARRY OUT!  Yes this is a NYS law but this should be followed no matter what state or country you are in. NEVER LEAVE YOUR GARBAGE/PAPERS on the ground. NEVER.  Simply pack your food and paper waste back into the baggie you packed your lunch in!  Or bring a small bag to shove all waste in and place in bottom of your back pack to dispose of when you return home. If you see a plastic water bottle (shudder) that someone dropped or other waste, simply pick it up and bring out with you.

  • BURY YOUR HUMAN WASTE:  Yes sometimes nature calls....and you must use the woods as your bathroom.  Find a spot AT LEAST 150 feet off the trail and preferably behind a large tree or rock.  Dig a hole at least 6 inches deep (you can use your hiking stick for this or some people carry a small trowel).  Use biodegradable tissue paper and BURY ALL WASTE with the soil you dug up and add some leaves/branches to the top.  Make sure you are at least 150 feet away from any water source, too. (brooks, lake, river, waterfalls, etc).  Teach your children how to pee in the woods.
rather than further eroding the trail, just rock hop!
Mady on the Cascade Mt trail
Summer 2017

  • STAY ON THE TRAILS AT ALL TIMES!  do NOT walk on the fragile plants/wildflowers at alpine level/summits.  If the trail is muddy, STAY ON IT.  Do not further erode the trails by going off and around.  This is why water-proof hiking boots are vital.  Once you are on the summit, do NOT pick the flowers, or disturb the plant life.  Take photos but hands off the plants!  This will help to keep our earth and woods healthy. In some of the National Parks, you can be fined by bringing back flowers or rocks etc.  Be respectful of God's creation/Nature.

my niece Mady on the Cascade Mt summit
August 2017
Note: she is standing on the bare rock NOT where the fragile plants are located.
to navigate around the summit, is called rock-hopping.  

  • BE PREPARED:  No one really wants to share their water because you should be carrying your own!  Pack the following items into your backpack for each mountain hike/deep woods hike:
                    first aid kit
                    enough water for the length of hike (at least 2 bottles)
                    map or trailguide
                    food/snacks/a source of protein and a source of salt
                    extra socks, and rain jacket
                    a whistle

my backpack
Spring 2017
Kipp Mountain
photo courtesy of Cheryl A Blask
  • KEEP STUFF OFF THE TRAIL!  If you are stopping to rest, take a water/snack break, DO NOT LEAVE YOUR STUFF in the middle of the trail!  This is dangerous to other hikers, especially ones coming DOWN who might not see your loot.  Simply place your backpack against a tree or rock, and sit on the side of the trail without sprawling your legs all over the trail.  Lean your hiking stick against a tree as well and pick up any food/paper that falls.  The only thing that is "ok" to toss into the woods is an apple core!  That will break down into compost. 
Faith and Cheryl getting assistance from super nice guys
on trail across stream at Poke-a-Moonshine Mt
June 2015
photo courtesy of Tina 
  • ACCEPT AND OFFER HELP!  It is ok to accept help if you need it. Most hikers I've met over all these years of hiking are super nice, respectful people.  Here is a photo where I just could NOT walk on those beaver dam branches. I kept slipping.  Some guys noticed and helped us across.  I've often had to give someone a hand up or down a rock scramble or give out directions.   There is no shame in accepting help and it is downright good etiquette to offer it if you see someone struggling.  Smile, say Hello, etc before approaching someone.  Ask if they want help. And remember....do unto others......

  • KEEP NOISE LEVEL DOWN!  Most people want to enjoy the woods and mountain top experience with as little noise as possible. There's nothing more annoying that someone blasting music from a boom box (yes it happened on Snowy Mt!!) or from their iphone.  TURN OFF THE TECHNOLOGY and save your battery. Seriously, be respectful to nature lovers and people who want to meditate in the great outdoors.  Keep your conversations at a talking level.  Give people space at the summit.  Don't crowd into their area of viewing/eating, etc.  If you are on a fire tower, take your pics, look around and then come down as there are often rules stating that no more than 5-6 people can be on the top/in the cab.  

  • ALL DOGS SHOULD BE LEASHED.  It's actually a rule for the High Peaks and is wise on all other trails.  For my Fit and Fun Group, I have established a "no pets can come" rule.  Keeps things easier!

  • WATCH OUT FOR PRIVATE PROPERTY:  if needing to cross private landowners' property, stick to the trail and be respectful so they will want to continue to allow hikers to cross their land. NEVER toss litter onto private property. If you must park on their land (as is the case when hiking Pine Orchard in the southern ADKS) ask the landowner as a courtesy.  (they will say Yes).  Don't block their driveway or access road.  Leave a note on the car stating your purpose if they are not at home.

  • FIRST COME FIRST SERVE:  This is usually the case for spending the night in a lean-to.  (see first photo above). However, if there are only 1-2 people in a large one, sometimes they will invite another person to stay as well.  It's common courtesy to at least ask.  Also, if the lean-to includes dishes or a broom, etc please leave them there after using and washing them.  Be respectful.  Leave it better than you found it!

  • OFFER GAS MONEY!  If you are car-pooling to a trail-head, offer the driver gas money or offer to pay any parking fees.  I'm not inclined to take gas money but I love it when my friends and fellow hikers make the offer. It's kind. Some of my friends and I have an "unwritten rule" where if one drives, the other one buys the coffee or ice cream afterwards. Again, not necessary and not every driver will take you up on the offer, but it is kind and respectful.

These are the basic rules of hiking.


1 comment:

Susanne said...

Yes, the blasting of the music is incredibly annoying no matter what style it is. I go to the mountains to get into nature and leave the electronics behind. I want to hear the breeze in the leaves and the birds and the streams not what I can hear at home.