PSA: Leave No Trace at the Trailhead

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blue plastic brush cleaning dirt off bottom of dirty hiking hoot

Leave No Trace

Here’s a thing I’ve just started doing. I was up in the Adirondacks recently and, right before I drove away, I brushed off all the dirt from my boots and gaiters. It’s a trick I came across online. It means I’m not transporting any non-native seeds, or tiny critter hitchhikers, from one area to another.

The TL;DR

Ben Lawhon is the education director for the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics and he says, “Hikers can spread nonnative species, which is a huge cause of habitat destruction. By not taking plants or animals, and cleaning your boots before you leave the trailhead, you can make a difference.”

Ever noticed the differences between the rock and soil in the Catskills versus the Adirondacks?

The Catskills have a lot of red soil and the rock bed there is almost entirely sedimentary.

The Adirondacks I’ve been to have all had beautiful rich black soil, and the Adirondack rock bed is mostly metamorphic and igneous.

Transporting seeds and specific location-adapted insects from one environment to another is always bad news. I’m in the Catskills every week but as I start to branch out to the ADKs, the Greens and the Whites, I need to be mindful about what I’m dragging from one region to the next.

Even small distances matter. The Catskills and Taconics are separated by only a few miles but the Taconics are hugely metamorphic — and the soil, flora and micro-fauna over there are wildly different from what I see here in the Catskills.

Post-Hike Goodness

Switching into a clean pair of socks and sneakers after a long hard hike is one of the great post-hike treats. Your feet will thank you. Your nose will bless you. Your significant other will finally marry you.

In the hot months, I also pack a cold seltzer in a cooler with some ice packs — another wonderful post-hike reward.

Before throwing my stinky boots in the trunk, I used to just clap them together at the trailhead to shake off most of the dirt. But using a brush is a hundred times more effective. You can quickly brush down your gaiters and boots, and really clean out the lugs where the dirt gets compacted into place.

There are dedicated tools for this job, but I already had that blue spare chunk of plastic sitting around at home. Now it has a job for a few more years before it goes in the landfill. Maybe you have an old kitchen scrubber you can throw in your trunk; any bristly old thing will work.

Cleaning off your gear is just a great mindful thing to do while you cool down and enjoy your post-hike treats.

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