Recreate Responsibly: Tips for Hiking and Nature Walks
This year we welcomed the arrival of spring on March 20. As spring arrives many of us can’t wait to crawl out of our winter hibernation and stretch our legs in the Great Outdoors. Spring is probably the best season in this part of the country because that’s when everything becomes lush and green again. As the ground warms and begins sending up shoots for the early season blossoms, we watch for that first sunny spring day to get outside. This is when you’ll see amusing sights of the locals wearing summer attire like shorts and tank tops when it may be only about 60 degrees. Newcomers from warmer climates may still be shivering and won’t understand this behavior at first, but this is how we traditionally welcome spring here in Southwest Washington.
At this time last year, the desire to be outside roaming free was especially strong when many people were spending so much time inside the same four walls during pandemic lock down. Now that people are getting vaccinated and public spaces are opening back up, we have more freedom for outdoor gatherings and recreation. Yet we should still remember some basic guidelines for recreating responsibly, especially in our treasured natural areas.
Know Before You Go
Counties of Washington and Oregon may be in different opening up phases, so check ahead online for information and updates about your destination. Even if the park or natural area is open to the public, there is no guarantee that restroom facilities will be in use. Even in spring, weather can still impact travel and cause closures at higher elevations, which is another reason to check ahead for current conditions.
Play It Safe
Over time weather can significantly change the conditions of hiking trails and recreation areas. The trail you remember from last year may be eroded away or blocked with fallen trees. Watch for signs marking new hazards and play it safe when you venture into unknown territory that feels beyond your skill level. Above all, stay on the trail! There is plenty to observe along the trail and very easy to become disoriented and lost if you wander off the path.
Leave No Trace
The best thing about our natural areas in the Pacific Northwest is that they are natural. We want them to stay that way. Do your best to pack out all your trash and leave no trace of civilization behind so that others can enjoy the same wonder of a pristine wilderness area. The wildlife will appreciate it too since garbage left behind can be harmful to them. Bring an extra garbage bag to pick up debris from other visitors who may be careless with their waste.