Chautauqua Watershed Notes: Good Conduct On The Trail
Hiking seems like a very basic activity that most people feel they can do without too much difficulty, having walked since they were but a tiny tot. There are, however, a few things to keep in mind when hiking a trail, whether it’s a just a short stroll or an epic trail hike.
The first thing is that the next person who comes to hike should enjoy the experience no less than you did. If possible, even leave the trail better than you found it. You can do that by picking up litter you find along the way and leaving trail features in place to help the next person enjoy the natural splendor that you recently enjoyed.
When you meet others on the trail, offer a kind greeting or wave “hello” as you pass. It’s never a bad idea to offer a kind word of greeting. It may even help someone who is lost or nervous feel comfortable enough to ask for assistance. Try not to sneak up on other hikers if you are walking more quickly. Kindly let them know you are coming up on them and let them know on which side you might pass by them with a friendly “on your right” or “on your left.”
If you bring your dog on the trail, it is best to keep them on a leash and be aware of other dogs and people. Give plenty of space to people who are nervous around your dog and keep track of children that may run up to pet or play with your dog. Every dog is potentially friendly, but scared dogs respond with the tools a dog has to defend themselves with, which could result in a nip or bite. Always ask before reaching towards someone else’s dog to pet them. If your dog stops to relieve himself, please take a moment to pick up after him and take your “doggy bag” home for disposal as well. Do not leave it on the trail for someone else to clean up or step on.
If you are in an area that has a well-defined trail, stay on the indicated path as well as you are able to. Wandering off the trail may disrupt animals going about their critter business, damage sensitive plants, start soil erosion or damage sensitive soils that do better uncompacted by footwear.
“Leave what you find where you found it” is a good general rule for any rocks, sticks, plants or fungi. Stacking stones is a popular thing to do out in the wilderness or along a creek bed, but that too should be avoided. Rocks serve as durable shelter for all manner of insects and other small creatures who would be terribly put out by having to find a different home or refuge. Also, in some areas, older trail markers may include stone stacks that have been there for quite some time, and adding more to the landscape may cause hikers to become lost because they followed a stone stack that had nothing to do with the trail.
Getting out to enjoy the trails through fields and forest and across streams and creeks is a great outdoor activity! When you do, please do your best to make sure it is just as lovely for the next person to travel the same way you did.
The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is offering a “Wandering Chautauqua’s Watersheds 2021 Hiking Challenge” and will hold a kick-off hike on Saturday, June 5, starting at 10AM at the Dobbins Woods Preserve on Bly Hill Road. The challenge runs from June 5th until the end of October, and you do not need to attend the kick-off in order to participate. Contact Whitney at CWC at 716 664-2166 ext. 1006 for more information.
The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is a not-for-profit organization with the mission to preserve and enhance the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams, wetlands and watersheds of the Chautauqua region. For more information, visit chautauquawatershed.org and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.