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Nature Rules: Think Before You Do

From a young age we’re taught to think before we speak, but of equal importance is thinking before we do. This is especially true when visiting our fragile parks & wilderness. Here are some tips on how to just act right in Nature.

Nature Rules Human Impacts LogoHowdy, Neighbor. As we all share our public lands, it’s crucial to be considerate and extend a friendly hello to our fellow visitors.  This includes any number of actions, from following proper trail etiquette (yield to uphill hikers/yield to horses/bicyclists yield to both hikers and horses), remaining quiet, keeping a clean camp and reminding ourselves that we all do things a little bit differently.  As they say…variety is the spice of life.

Take Only Pictures, Leave Only Footprints. Another classic, this philosophy is simple — travel lightly, appreciate the beauty around you, and have a minimal impact on our natural world.

Trailsafe. To preserve sensitive habitats and prevent erosion to our meadows & forests, always stay on established trails and don’t be that guy who cuts switchbacks. Or girl, for that matter.

Leave It For Good. While National Parks are ours to enjoy, removing things from them such as indigenous artifacts, plants, rocks and even pinecones is damaging the spirit and ecosystem alike, not to mention illegal. Always leave items where you found them, and if they intrigue enough then snap a picture to show your friends back home. Also true for natural objects at your campsite — resist the urge to make “improvements” and adapt to the landscape instead.

Keep Right. Slow traffic is a given where tourism abounds, so always stay to the right and let faster traffic pass even if you’re going the speed limit. Just like back home, there are locals who need to get to work and pick up their kids from school!

Don’t Drone On. Drones and aircraft are not allowed in most Parks and wildernesses. Check regulations before you go and know that drones can frighten wildlife, damage habitat and even hurt other visitors.

Get A Handle On Vandalism. If you’re reading this, you probably aren’t the culprit, but never graffiti, carve initials or tag our parks & wilderness. Talk to your kids about the irreparable damage this causes, and if you see someone vandalizing then report them to a ranger or law enforcement.

Know Where To Hunt. Research all hunting seasons/regulations before entering a wilderness, and never hunt or shoot in a National Park. It’s illegal. In most cases, personal firearms are also not allowed.

Not A Cairn In The World. Cairns — or stacks of rocks — are often used to provide safety information marking hiking routes and/or prove to your Insta followers that you were out on the trail.  Please don’t build them for two reasons:  1) if followed, there is no guarantee the person who left it there is providing safe accurate directions, and 2) they damage the surrounding ecosystem.

Woman hiking on the John Muir Trail

Leave No Trace by staying on the trail. Hiking on durable surfaces like trails, rock, or snow reduces erosion and helps protect fragile plants and ecosystems. Photo: Damian Riley

Durable Good. Always hike and camp on durable surfaces such established trails, packed snow or hard surfaces like rock or gravel.  Doing so allows tender vegetation to grow (even lichen on rock) and prevents damage to fragile ecosystems.

Buy Local Wood. Bringing outside firewood into another forest can transport diseases such as Sudden Oak Death, pine bark beetles and other pests. Prevent this from happening and support the community by buying local firewood.

Collect Inspiration, Not Food.  Animals need every bit of food that grows in our parks & forests, so don’t collect mushrooms, berries or other plants they so desperately need. Did we mention that it’s illegal in many cases?

Waste Case. One of the trickiest dilemmas for hikers in the backcountry is what to do with human waste.  This includes using a Wag Bag to carry it out (required by law in certain areas) or burying it properly.  Know your best approach and consider how you’d react if you discovered someone else’s business. The answer is probably angrily.

Man looking over the railing at Upper Yosemite Falls

Enjoy the guard railings at the top of Upper Yosemite Falls. They are there for your safety.
Photo: Noel Morrison

Signs Of The Times. Warning signs are put up for a reason.  To keep us safe.  Whether they indicate Fire Danger, Falling Rocks or even the Speeding Kills Bears signs that indicate areas where bears have been hit by cars in Yosemite, a sign emboldened with a red bear, means dead bear… these messages help us from harming wildlife and ourselves.

Let Guard Rails Guard. Safety barriers and guard rails are commonly found in the mountains of Yosemite Mariposa.  Their placement indicates a cliff or other dangerous feature.  Simple rule?  Stay behind them, and stay alive.

High & Fast, Do Not Pass. High and fast-moving water is dangerous both across trails and roadways.  Never try pass through these hazards whether on foot or in a vehicle, and follow the simple rule: never enter a river that is moving faster than you can walk.

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