How to Adventure Outdoors Without Leaving a Trace Behind - Cramer Imaging - Quality Fine Art Photography
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How to Adventure Outdoors Without Leaving a Trace Behind

How to Adventure Outdoors Without Leaving a Trace Behind
Ever been to a campsite or a hiking trail where unkind person had trashed the area before leaving?  I expect that you did not enjoy the experience as much as you had hoped, especially if you had to clean up after them.  Want to know what you can do to not be that person to someone else?

Spring is here and summer is coming.  The weather is warming up and everyone is going to want to go outside and enjoy the outdoors.  Camping, hiking, and vacations are going to be on everybody's lists of things to do.  The question becomes how to do these outdoor activities without destroying things for others.

Professional scenic landscape photograph by Cramer Imaging of the Snake River and wild plants at Massacre Rocks State Park, Idaho
Imagine seeing a campsite like this rather than one filled with trash.
Previously as a Cub Scout leader, I have been teaching the boys the principles of Leave No Trace as a part of the outdoor program.  Now, as a Boy Scout leader, I continue that education at a deeper level for the boys.  This program contains seven points which, if followed will prevent you from damaging the surrounding environment and also make sure that you are not that rude guy who left garbage behind.

Cramer Imaging's professional quality photograph of an orange butterfly sitting on a pink flower in Caribou National Forest, Bannock, Idaho
Attention to what we do lets all enjoy together.
These points are:

  • Plan Ahead and Prepare
  • Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  • Dispose of Waste Properly
  • Leave What You Find
  • Minimize Campfire Impacts
  • Respect Wildlife
  • Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Some of these concepts are more broad than others.  As a result, there are several sub-points which may be discussed under each of these headings.

Planning Ahead and Preparing

Planning ahead and preparing means more than simply checking the weather report before you leave.  It means following local regulations and making sure that you are prepared for emergencies as well.

Cramer Imaging's professional quality landscape photograph of icy reflecting stream and red branches at Cherry Springs Nature Area, Caribou National Forest near Pocatello, Bannock, Idaho
Planning ahead includes making preparations for unexpected weather conditions.

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

Camping on a durable surface seems like common sense to most people.  No one wants to sleep in a muddy stream bed likely to flood over.  This also means that we don't start blazing our own trails unnecessarily.  Curiosity is not a necessity nor an excuse for trail blazing.

Cramer Imaging's professional quality natural scenic landscape photograph of wagon wheels, axle, and sagebrush on the Snake River at Massacre Rocks, Idaho
Established trails and campsites are the best places to use when outdoors.

Dispose of Waste Properly

Disposing of waste properly is rather simple.  If you pack it in, then you also pack it out with you.  Human waste needs to be buried at least 6 to 8 inches deep.  Also, don't wash dishes near a natural water source such as a stream or lake.

Quality landscape silky water spring with trees and rocks professionally photographed by Cramer Imaging near Alta, Wyoming
Washing dishes near a stream, like this, may seem like a good idea but it's not.  Dish soap will pollute the water for all the animals and plants around and may kill some of the local wildlife.

Leave What You Find

Leaving what you find means that you don't pick the flowers, take the rocks, or anything like that.  Especially don't go removing historical artifacts.  This is especially difficult for children but proper instruction and guidance will prevent too much environmental disturbance.

Cramer Imaging's professional quality fine art nature photograph of blue wildflowers with water droplets in Salt Lake City, Utah
One or two missing flowers will not affect much.  If everyone takes a flower, then there won't be enough seeds for next year's flowers.

Minimize Campfire Impacts

Minimizing campfire impact means to follow the local fire regulations.  If fires are forbidden, don't build one.  Where permitted, use established fire pits.  Don't build a larger fire than you need.  A simple family camp out does not require a bonfire.

Cramer Imaging's professional quality black and white fine art photograph of split wood and snow in Caribou National Forest, Bannock, Idaho
Minimizing fire impact also includes not chopping down the local trees for firewood.

Respect Wildlife

Respecting wildlife means that you do not approach or antagonize any of the wild animals you may see.  Don't feed them.  Wild animals are not your pets and need to keep foraging for themselves.  This will prevent them from dying thanks to laziness.  Speaking of pets, make sure that you control your pets at all times or don't bring them with you at all.  Excited dogs are the worst violators of not respecting wildlife.

Cramer Imaging's professional quality nature photograph of a wild Canadian goose spreading open its wings in Idaho Falls, Bonneville, Idaho
Wildlife, such as this goose, do not take well to being disturbed by humans or dogs.

Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Finally, being considerate to other visitors includes things like keeping your voice volume under control.  No one likes that obnoxiously loud and rude tourist drowning out the sound of nature.  Make sure to yield the trail or make room for others to pass when you encounter them.  Not everyone travels or sight-sees at the same speed.

Cramer Imaging professionally created senior portrait of a young man with buoys at Jensen's Grove, Blackfoot, Bingham, Idaho
Be kind and considerate to others who want to enjoy the same sights you are there to enjoy.


Following these seven simple suggestions will help you and everyone after you to enjoy your outdoor adventures.  If you would like to learn more about the principles of Leave No Trace, follow this link to their website to read more about this outdoor code in detail.

Leave No Trace is not the intellectual property of Audrey Cramer nor of Cramer Imaging.