August 7, 2019

Please Leave No Trace on Mount Baker

Trailheads, campsites, routes, and trails on the Mount Baker National Forest have been very busy this summer. We absolutely love to see so many people enjoying the wilderness, but such high visitation can also have negative effects. Human impacts like trail widening, social trails, campsite construction, campfires, and switchback cutting are all extremely difficult to repair and often lead to further damage. Abandoned garbage and human waste pollute the fragile alpine ecosystem and are eyesores to other visitors. It's the responsibility of each and every visitor to treat our public lands with the utmost care so that all people may continue to enjoy them.

The best guidelines for your behavior on public lands are the 7 principles of Leave No Trace:
  • Plan ahead and prepare.
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
  • Dispose of waste properly.
  • Leave what you find.
  • Minimize campfire impacts (be careful with fire).
  • Respect wildlife.
  • Be considerate of other visitors.

These principles provide an excellent framework for minimizing human impacts, but to truly "leave no trace" we must understand how to apply them in various circumstances and settings. To assist with that, here are some examples of the many ways in which visitors often break these principles and the impacts they cause on Mount Baker. 

Trail widening often occurs in spring and early summer when hikers step to the sides of the trail to avoid mud or snow. Please stay on durable, non-vegetated surfaces AT ALL TIMES, including when you stop for a break. Others will follow your footprints, and once the vegetation is gone, it's nearly impossible to repair. 

Do not cut switchbacks under any circumstances. Even small cuts like this one will cause severe erosion, literally destroying the very trail you're walking on. Young people and dogs are often the source of these problems, and it's usually because they or their owners are simply unaware of the impact they are causing. If you see other visitors cutting switchbacks, please say something.

Rock stacking and constructing cairns is also strictly prohibited. Wilderness is a place where signs of human presence should be reduced to an absolute minimum. Most people visit wilderness for this exact reason, to get away from other people and experience a pristine natural environment. Nobody comes to see your art project/vandalism. Leave the rocks where they are! 

Pack out all garbage and human waste. Waste buried in snow will quickly melt out and contaminate water sources. It's also incredibly disgusting to see this sort of thing as you are climbing on an otherwise immaculate glacier. Blue bags are available for free from the visitor centers in Sedro Woolley and Glacier, and from dispensers at most trailheads. Please, please, please pack out your waste!

Leave no trace is a state of mind. When you visit public lands, you should always be thinking about how your actions will affect the landscape and other visitors. Keep the 7 principles in mind and educate others if you see them breaking the guidelines. Click here for for more information about leave no trace on Mount Baker. Thanks for your help in protecting our wonderful mountains and forests. We can't do it without you!










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