Learning to Leave No Trace

We had so much fun learning from the Leave No Trace Traveling Trainers at the Leave No Trace Winter Awareness Workshop last night! For those of you who missed it, here’s a quick recap. We highly recommend attending next time Kate, Tracy and Bigfoot roll through town. And it’s not too late to catch a glimpse of the elusive Sasquatch: Bigfoot will be at Tahoe Mountain Sports on Saturday, and he’s headlining the Kings Beach SnowFest parade, which starts at 11:30am so don’t miss it!

First of all, Kate and Tracy, aka the Leave No Trace Traveling Trainers, are traveling machines! They’ve logged near 100,000 miles on their Subaru the past two years, and expect to put another 50,000 on the clicker this year. Their routes from the past two years are in green and red on the map pictured above.

They’re passionate about spreading the Leave No Trace message, but don’t expect to be lectured. We played fun, interactive games to find out best practices in the wilderness. And it felt like more of a conversation than being told about hard-fast rules.

In game #1 we learned how certain gear could help us follow the 7 Leave No Trace principles, and in game #2 we had to guess how long various items picked out of a bag took to decompose. And guess what I picked: the diaper. Lucky me! My item took the third longest of the bunch at 10-20  years, with the 6-pack plastic holder being the longest at 100 years. The orange peel was the shocker, taking longer to decompose than a paper bag. And then we learned that a plastic bottle can take, depending on conditions, anywhere from 1,000 years to infinity (never breaking down)! Definitely made me think more about the trash I create.

We also talked about pet and human waste. While we all know that it’s important to dig a hole for our #2s in the wild, most of us will pee without a second thought. Technically, this too is leaving a trace, and it’s best, the trainers told us, to choose a site away from water, and one that’s less nutrient-rich, like a sandier soil. Animals are attracted to the salt in urine, so be aware… they told a tale of one woman’s encounter with a pee-thirsty goat!

As for pet waste, we know of the problem well here in Tahoe, perhaps the dog capitol of the nation! Yes, it’s not OK to leave your dog’s business lying around, especially near Tahoe’s crystal-clear waters and near roads where it can contribute to run-off. If you want to read more about the science behind these principles, check out the Leave No Trace Related Research page.

This workshop was just 1 of 3 levels of training provided by Leave No Trace. Level Two would be a 16-hour, 2-day course that requires a night out, and then there’s a Master Educator 5-day course.

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