Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart did not say “Play it again, Sam” in “Casablanca.” And James Cagney came close to uttering “You dirty rat!” in “Taxi,” but that’s not quite the true quote either.
You see? You learn things by reading the newspaper.
Things such as “First, do no harm” is not part of the Hippocratic Oath. Hippocrates did write similar words, though, in a work called “Of the Epidemics,” according to Harvard Health Publishing.
Which brings us to “First, leave no trace.”
OK, we made that up. But there are countless rules-of-hiking lists out there, and not surprisingly, most of them address the leave-no-trace concept in some form or another. What some would find surprising is that “Leave no trace” isn’t first on every list.
We bring this up because of concerns over a disturbing trend at some of our local trails and outdoor recreation venues. Too many visitors are leaving traces at alarming rates, thus despoiling the experience for other visitors and, in some cases, doing potentially irreparable harm to the land.
The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics website offers a succinct bullet list of seven leave-no-trace principles:
- 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 are intended not just for backcountry, long-
distance hikers and campers, but for day hikers as well — for instance, Yakima Valley residents who take an hour or two and set out for a nice stretch-o-the-legs along, say, a Cowiche Canyon Conservancy trail, or perhaps the Yakima Greenway.
Those two destinations have recently seen an increase in usage thanks to the closure of most state and federal lands and the overall restrictions on activities during the statewide “Stay home, stay safe” order. Such restrictions have now been eased, but not before those trails witnessed a substantial increase in use — and, sadly, an increase in litter.
No doubt most hikers were and are thoughtful and careful, yet there was a clear increase in waste left behind — not just along CCC and Greenway trails but also at the Yakima Area Arboretum, another popular site for enjoying the outdoors.
In late April, Colleen Adams-Schuppe, executive director for the Arboretum, told the Herald-Republic that the 46 acres of Arboretum grounds were hosting an array of picnickers, sunbathers, walkers and others and that she was pleased with how many were following social distancing guidelines. She also noted that more trash than usual was being left all over the grounds and parking lot.
Cy Philbrick, education and outreach coordinator for Cowiche Canyon Conservancy, said at the time that CCC trails were seeing more hikers than ever. Trash was an issue, the story noted — orange peels, drink cups, tissues, bottle caps; some items in plain sight and some partially hidden. There also was evidence of off-trail hiking, he said. “These lands can be destroyed by a few off-trail footprints, and they may never recover,” he said.
When all the recent abnormal circumstances are taken into account, it’s possible that much of the trash came from people who were new to the trails, or perhaps new to hiking in general. After all, as previously noted, recreation opportunities were severely limited for weeks, but walking, hiking and biking in a social-distancing capacity were encouraged. “Hey, let’s go for a quick hike. I hear the Cowiche Canyon trails are really cool.”
Yes, they are. The CCC trail system, Greenway and Arboretum are absolute gems of the Yakima area, and we can all be proud. But stewardship for such places is the responsibility of all, Philbrick noted. “This is your land. Caring for public spaces requires all users to do their part,” he said.
If you are new to our local trails, good for you. They’re a great place to exercise, clear your mind and perhaps enjoy the company of friends or family. But please use them responsibly. A word of advice: Go back to the list of seven principles you read a couple of minutes ago and focus on the first one. Plan ahead and prepare. Hit your favorite coffee stand after your hike, not before — thus removing the temptation of leaving your empty cup somewhere along the trail and adhering to principle No. 3: Dispose of waste properly.
Our spectacular hiking and walking venues are happy to play host to you and yours and are glad that you’re getting outdoors. But please: Leave no trace.
(And no, William Shatner’s Capt. Kirk never said “Beam me up, Scotty.”)