Once you see the Eastern Sierra wilderness, it’s easy to think that it goes on forever. However, the wilderness that brings campers, hikers, and outdoors enthusiasts to Mammoth Lakes is very much a limited resource that needs to be protected by all who visit.
Although it’s always good to volunteer to aid conservation efforts, you can protect wildlife and wilderness areas by simply following the Seven Leave No Trace Principles. Although the Leave No Trace Principles are simple enough, actually practicing them can be tricky for inexperienced campers and hikers, so the ASO Mammoth team has listed a breakdown of each principle. Check them out below and start exploring the wilderness mindfully!
Plan Ahead and Prepare
While this step is important for every trip into the outdoors, when it comes to the seven principles planning ahead is based specifically on knowing the area you’re visiting.
One of the best examples of the need to plan ahead is fire regulations. If an area has a high wildfire risk, then campfires may be banned completely or have strict regulations around them. Fire regulations and restrictions aren’t all though, as planning ahead will also allow you to avoid periods of high use and not overstress the environment you’re camping in among other things.
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
If you’re abiding by the Leave No Trace Principles, then your focus should always be on leaving as little impact on the environment and traveling and camping on durable surfaces is one of the best ways to do so.
The main thing that can be confusing here is the definition of durable surfaces, but it’s actually pretty simple. Basically, you want to avoid building new campsites or forging new trails. For example, you should avoid camping on vegetation and minimalize your impact while hiking by walking in a single file line on the trail and camping 200 feet away from lakes and streams.
Dispose of Waste Properly
This principle is where the name “Leave No Trace” is most applicable. Basically, if you pack something in then you need to pack it out.
While properly disposing of trash may seem obvious, disposing of waste can get tricky when it comes to food and human waste. Always check your food preparation and disposal area to make sure you’re leaving no food behind and check your camping area’s regulations on human waste so you can pack it out if necessary.
Leave What You Find
One of the best parts of exploring untouched nature is seeing it in a way you could never experience at home. By leaving what you see exactly as you see it, you can make sure that future campers and hikers have the exact same experience. This guideline applies to vegetation and wildlife as well as structures and minerals.
Minimize Campfire Impacts
We’ve already discussed campfires, but it’s important to talk about how to properly manage the impact of campfires on the environment.
The first step to minimizing campfire impacts begins with how you gather your wood. You should always buy or gather local wood to avoid spreading invasive species as well as gather only dead wood from the ground that is small enough for you to break by hand. Lastly, always follow fire regulations, use fire rings, and burn your coals down to ash before scattering them once cool.
Do not approach or engage with wildlife. Doing so can naturalize them to human contact and put the wildlife and future visitors in danger. Never feed wildlife or leave behind food or food waste.
Be Considerate of Others
Show respect for other campers and hikers at all times. Camp away from the trail, give uphill hikers the right of way, and control your pets if you’ve brought them along.