Frontcountry Ethics

Sedona LNT - April 2016What if everyone who stepped into the natural world had an outdoor ethic?

85% of outdoor recreation takes place in the frontcountry. The frontcountry is defined, most generally, as any place you can reach by vehicle. This includes activities such as: camping, hiking, mountain biking and fishing.

I’m at an established campground. A landscape dotted with campsite markers denoting a site number. A sturdy table that is unmovable and a grill used with charcoal for the essentials of camping – hot dogs. The boundaries are clearly marked with 4×4 posts embedded in the ground and sandy gravel laid and rolled flat – an ideal campsite space. The toilets of the campground are strategically placed – north end, middle and south end – as are the water spigots. Pavement with directional markers lead to each individual site and the nearest exit.

The campground host, a tidy man with LCD lights hanging from the top of his RV to the ground, waits at the entrance to guide those with reservations to their site. He hands each with the required vehicle tag and a bullet-pointed quarter sheet of paper with the regulations of the campground.

I wonder how many of the campground occupants realize that the western-most edge of the campground shares a boundary with a small creek? I know the boy scout troop does – the youngest member told me earlier he was excited to catch crawdads!

It has been raining for a couple of hours. I heard the storm progressing up the canyon as thunder echoed off the sandstone walls. For a short while I heard nothing but the force of water droplets pinging from the tent fly I’d pulled extra tight when I heard the progressing roar.

My solar, multi-color light hangs from a small hook at the top of my tent. Plenty of light luminates. I’ve perfected how to sit comfortably in my crazy creek chair wrapped in a down jacket with my most cozy sleeping bag wrapping my torso and lower limbs. I’m snug and cozy.

Long ago in the day I turned off my phone and tucked it away for the weekend. I’ve entertained myself by sitting quiet, reading short stories, testing myself with word searches and writing quotable snippets I’m unlikely to share.

The established campsite provides a source of comfort, time away from the city, the traffic, the over-exposure of too much stimulation. Kids are still being yelled at for doing something they shouldn’t. Dogs occasionally bark at a person or sound unknown. Families convene around campfires in outdoor chairs sharing burned dinners and the quintessential marshmallow on a stick. There is laughter and general calm in the air (well, maybe not from the campground host).

Communing with nature. Maybe not my traditional communing but I can appreciate and understand why so many spend their time outside this way.


Know Before You Go. Be prepared. Remember food and water and clothes to protect you from cold, heat and rain. Use maps to plan where you’re going. Check them along the way so you’ll stay on course and won’t get lost. Remember to bring a leash for your pet and plastic bags to pick up your pet’s waste. Learn about the area you plan to visit. Read books, check online and talk to people before you go. The more you know, the more fun you’ll have.
Stick to Trails and Camp Overnight Right. Walk and ride on designated trails to protect trailside plants. Avoid stepping on flowers or small trees. Once damaged, they may not grow back. Respect private property by staying on designated trails. Camp only on existing or designed campsites to avoid damaging vegetation. Good campsite are found, not made. Don’t dig trenches or build structure in your campsite.
Trash Your Trash and Pick Up Poop. Pack it in. Pack it out. Put litter – even crumbs, peels and cores in garbage bags and carry it home. Use bathrooms or outhouses when available. If not available, bury human waste in a small hole 6-8 inches deep and 200 feet or 75 big paces from water. Use a plastic bag to pack out your pet’s poop to a garbage can. Keep water clean. Do not put soap, food, human or pet waste in lakes or streams.
Leave It As You Find It. Leave plants, rocks and historical items as you find them so others can enjoy them. Treat living plants with respect. Carving, hacking or peeling plants may kill them.
Be Careful With Fire. Use a camp stove for cooking. Stoves are easier to cook on and create less impact than a fire. If you want to have a campfire, be sure it’s permitted and safe to build a fire in the area you’re visiting. Use only existing fire rings to protect the ground from heat. Keep your fire small. Remember, a campfire isn’t a garbage can. Pack out all trash and food. Before gathering any firewood, check local regulations. Don’t bring firewood from home. It may be contaminated with tree-killing insects or diseases. Instead, buy local wood near your destination or gather it onsite if allowed. Burn all wood completely to ash and be sure the fire is completely out and cold before you leave.
Keep Wildlife Wild. Observe wildlife from a distance and never approach, feed or follow them. Human food is unhealthy for all wildlife and feeding them starts bad habits. Protect wildlife an your food by securely storing your meals and trash.
Share Our Trails and Manage Your Pet. Be considerate when passing others on the trail. Keep your pet under control to protect it, other visitors and wildlife. Listen to nature. Avoid making loud noises or yelling. You will see more wildlife if you are quiet. Be sure the fun you have outdoors does not bother anyone else. Remember, other visitors are there to enjoy the outdoors too.

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