The Adirondack Mountains, located in Upstate New York, hold forty-six High Peaks above 3,790 feet. One of my favorite vacation activities is hiking some of these peaks with my family.
Over our years of hiking, we have always taken seriously the “Leave No Trace” set of outdoor ethics designed to conserve the environment and to allow for enjoyment of our natural parks. We are considerate about being environmentally friendly, making sure to stay on the trails and to pick up all of our trash. We have learned and are fully aware of the danger to animals (and even other hikers) when people leave behind trash and leftover food.
On our most recent attempt to summit three High Peaks in one day, we ventured into our trekking day with family friends, like usual, and most would say that we are a very boisterous group. We were a total of ten people, so the noise was somewhat expected. Maybe all the noise was the reason we never had any issues with bears that day. We were fully enjoying ourselves and enjoying the scenery on the trek. Our fun continued the entire way up the mountain, talking and laughing nonstop, and enjoying the spectacular 360 degree view at the top of the Iroquois peak. From Iroquois, we were able to see the other two peaks that we would summit next. That was pretty neat. To pass from Iroquois to Algonquin, we had to hike down and then go right back up. During this time, nothing about our previous behavior changed. I mean, what else, other than talking with your companions, are you supposed to do while hiking? We talked about all kinds of things to entertain ourselves. Everybody notices different things in nature, and it is cool to point them out to each other and discover new things along the way.
Once we made it to the top of the Algonquin peak, we were blown away by the 5,115 foot high view and were marveling at it. We were caught up in our own amazement and silliness without much consideration for anyone else on the summit. That was the moment we were enlightened to the seventh principle of “Leave No Trace” by a summit steward. We were quickly approached by her. She tried to be polite by first informing us about the rarity of the alpine vegetation that we had been quite careful not to walk on, but she quickly followed with asking us to be quiet and educating us of that seventh principle. It was an embarrassing moment, but it changed our views about all the noise we were making on the trail.
In case you have also never heard of principle number seven of “Leave No Trace,” here it is. “Let natural sounds prevail; avoid loud sounds and voices.” Who knew that every time one of us told a joke or funny story to entertain ourselves on our hikes, we were violating one of the guidelines we tried so hard to observe? Now, whenever we are picking up after ourselves and keeping on the trail, we will also remember that we should probably listen to nature rather than to ourselves if we want to truly leave no trace.
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