In many ways, hiking in the woods is much like being a guest in someone else’s home. And in almost every home, there are house rules that guests are expected to follow. Guests who abide by these rules help cultivate an atmosphere of harmony in the homes they’re visiting. However, guests who break these rules can easily turn a happy home into a realm of chaos and disruption.
Therefore, those hikers planning on being guests in Mother Nature’s domain should know that there is a specific code of conduct when you're out in nature. Hikers who don’t follow this code of conduct run the risk of damaging much more than they know.
The following list are suggestions on how to go hiking without disrupting those organisms that call Mother Nature their home.
- Follow the rules. Find out what the rules and regulations are for the area you’ll be hiking in, and obey the instructions on any signs that are posted.
- Throw away your trash. Don’t leave any form of litter behind. Take any wrappers or plastic bottles with you and throw them away in a trash can when you return to the main grounds.
- Turn your phone on silent. Turn the ringer off on your cell phone so you don't disturb the wildlife.
- Don't trespass. If there is an area you come across that has a “private property” sign, know that going onto that land is considered trespassing.
- Only you can prevent wildfires. If you need to build a fire, do so in designated areas. Prior to leaving the area, be sure it’s completely extinguished before heading out. In addition, those who are smokers should leave their cigarettes in the car. Throwing a cigarette butt that is even slightly lit could ignite a forest fire if thrown on the ground.
- Leave no trace. Don’t leave markings on rocks or carve anything on trees.
- Leave the wildlife alone. Never disturb wild animals in their natural habitat. Wild animals are wild for a reason, and you never know what could happen when disrupting them in their habitat.
- Don't feed the animals. In addition to leaving wild animals alone, you should also never feed wild animals either.
- Be mindful of your surroundings. Since most insect repellants are poisonous, be careful where you spray them.
- Keep everything in its place. Never throw anything like stones over a cliff or hillside. In addition, don’t pick any flowers or pull up any plants.
- Double check the pet policy. Instead of just showing up with your dog, call ahead to see if the area you’re headed to allows pets. If they do allow dogs, keep them on a leash at all times.
If you’re new to hiking, or a seasoned hiker who is interested in giving professional nature tours, you should check out Hocking College’s Ecotourism & Adventure Travel program.