Let us walk softly on the Earth

Jonathan Riley, Digby Courier
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As Simple as That - a column by Jonathan Riley

I love to explore the wild and untouched corners of Digby County, be it along the shore or deep in the woods.

In the natural world I find both peace and strength – I am soothed and energized all at once.

I go every chance I get, sometimes just to sit drifting in my canoe, soaking up the world as the creator put it together –the sky and trees, rocks and water, perfect.

Sometimes after walking for hours on the shore, I’ll find a nook, sheltered from the wind, but full in the sun, and watch the waves and the sea gulls, the wildflowers dancing in the wind.

It is no coincidence that my two favourite places to explore are the hard basalt shelves of the Fundy shore and the backcountry rivers, lakes and stillwaters.

When I walk on the hard rock, I do not leave even a footprint; the water closes behind my canoe and I was never there.

That, for me, is the ideal – to be able to leave things just as I found them, so those who come after me will also find the peace and the strength that I have found.

I also believe there is a difference in everything, meaning we can’t always leave no footprints.

But we can always be conscious of what we’re doing and the impact we’re having.

The seven official principles of the Leave No Trace movement are based on a common sense approach to walking softly on the earth.

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

The goal of these principles is that we leave nature the way we find it—and in the case of carrying out other’s people garbage, we can actually leave it in better shape.

In many cases these principles can make our adventures easier and increase our enjoyment of the outdoors.

In some cases, they serve to alert us to impacts we never considered.

On a recent camping trip in Keji, my friends couldn’t understand why I washed the dishes with water from the lake, but not in the lake, and then dumped the dirty dishwater in the outhouse.

I couldn’t explain it very well either—I had been taught to do it that way years ago. The idea is that the next visitors don’t have to see your egg scraps and bacon grease floating on the water.

This my friends understood when later they went to swim on the very beach where they would have washed their dishes.

The disposal of human waste can be complicated and tricky (there’s a book if you’re really interested: How to Shit in the Woods: An Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art by Kathleen Meyers.)

The ideal is everything you pack in, you pack out, including your poop.

That is often too much for many people and simply burying it away from water sources and trails is an acceptable and practical compromise.

The opposite of this principle is to leave the natural elements alone that you find out there.

You’ve come to the woods or the shore to experience nature, and the people who come after you expect the same.

The next Fundy Erratics hike will lead the group past an amazing rock wall in the woods, easily 200 years-old, 200 metres long and 2 metres tall.

The worst thing we could do is climb on it, lift rocks to look inside and “just take one little rock, no one will miss it”.

It is that kind of activity that eventually destroys the scene for future visitors.

The next Fundy Erratics hike is June 15. Please check our Facebook group or email me for more information.

For more information on walking softly, check out www.leavenotrace.ca/ .


Geographic location: Digby County, Keji

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