Part 1 of this series introduced the concepts of Leave No Trace Canada, and noted the 7 principles of Leave No Trace. On other pages, we cover Planning Ahead, Travelling on Durable Surfaces, Proper Waste Disposal, Leaving what you Find, Minimizing Campfire Impacts, and Respecting Wildlife. The final of these principles is “Be Considerate of Others”.
There are other people out here
Although it feels like it sometimes, you are not the only person in the forest. Others will come after you, and often, many will be around you (in campgrounds or picnic areas or even on mountain tops). To quote “Leave No Trace Canada”:
One of the most important components of outdoor ethics is to maintain courtesy toward other visitors. It helps everyone enjoy his or her outdoor experience.
Making noise – or not
It starts with noise. Other than “Yo, Bear!” calls (where, in fact, your noise helps others, and their noise helps you), very few people come to the wilderness to hear anything but the wilderness. They do not come to the wilderness to hear the latest hip-hop artist blasting techno beats from your backpack while on a trail or in a campground. They want to hear the hoots of a loon, the crackle of a campfire, the rush of a waterfall, the peeps of a pika and the wind swirling in the trees. Leave No Trace Canada suggests the use of headphones if you insist on listening to your Frank Sinatra tunes, but in bear country, we know headphones are a dangerous thing.
Be considerate of others and just turn the tunes off on the trail. Keep them down so low in your camp that they can’t be heard off the confines of your site. There are rules in front country campgrounds regarding generator usage and other noisemaking. We listen to enough radio calls to Conservation Officers to know there are complaints about these every day. Clanging dishes at 6 AM while you’re getting ready to go fish, or at 11 PM when you’re cleaning up for the night, is just inappropriate no matter where your site.
Don’t be a view hog
Generally, the wilderness is a big place, so when you sit down for lunch, there’s no reason to sit within earshot of anyone else’s quiet enjoyment. And if there are other people around, don’t hog the “best” spot where the view is, or sprawl over the entire mountaintop. Lingering is fine, but let others get their time at the top, too. While lingering, take in the sights and smells; don’t build cairns or stack rocks because you have nothing better to do.
Many K-Country trails are multi-use, and one complaint we hear all the time is a lack of courtesy on them. What should happen, and what actually happens, are two different things. The sign at right talks to who is to yield to whom, but in practice, what seems to happen is hikers have to get out of the way of everyone, bikers and horses don’t recognize each other’s issues, and snowshoers trample on trackset XC trails.
Basic trail courtesy guidelines
- Bikers are silent and fast, and need to warn hikers and other bikers they’re coming. Ring a bell or call out – far in advance – “bike” or “on the left”. The first rider of a group should say to folks they’re passing how many bikes are coming. Here’s a hint: attach a bear bell to your bike. It’s not good enough to warn bears, but it doesn’t do that bad a job of telling hikers you’re coming.
- Horses can be skittish, and can get upset and throw riders, or lash out and kick. So hikers need to get of the trail (to the downhill side) to let them pass. Bikers need to dismount while still a ways away, and give horses a wide berth.
- Hikers are REALLY mobile. It’s easy for hikers to get off the trail in even the densest brush to let others pass. So be courteous and do that.
- Folks coming uphill technically have the right of way. Again, truly courteous people get off the trail whether they are going uphill or downhill and have the Canadian argument: “You first!” “No, you go!” “No, after you. I insist!”
- Always single file, no matter who it is, no matter the trail.
- If you need to stop, stop off the trail, or as far to the side of the trail as you can.
- Stay as far right as practical, especially where there could be space for two to pass. If bikers are on such a steep grade they are off their bike and pushing it uphill, they are last on the “right of way pecking order”, and need to be aware of and get out of the way of both uphill and downhill traffic.
- Skiers should try to ski on one side of a trail and non-skiers should travel on the other side. Snowshoers should do likewise to allow skiers to set tracks on the other side.
- Snowshoers and hikers should NEVER step on trackset XC ski tracks. Ever. Period.
In the Public Land Use Zones, you can run into gates and free-range cattle, and a simple rule on gates is to leave them the way you found them. If it’s closed, close it behind you. If open, leave it open.
Travelling with dogs?
We love your dog, but there are people who don’t. Even if your dog is on a leash, while we adore your dog’s attention, there are those who are seriously not interested in saying “hi” to Fido. Don’t let your pup get upset at horses, or bikes. Let others ask if they can meet your pup. Don’t assume that just because you know your 150 lb Rottweiler is just a big ball of love that others will know that.
There are many sites in Kananaskis that are sacred or important to the Indigenous community. Finding sacred sites, fabric-wrapped trees and the like is not common, but can happen. Just because you find a tree full of fabric (like those pictured at right and above) doesn’t mean you should take some or leave some (or widely publicize its location on social media). If you stumble upon what looks like a cultural or anthropologic artifact: admire it but leave it be.
We should also note that we were given permission to post the photos of these cultural sites by the Indigenous people who took them. They were shared with us for this specific educational purpose. Best to think of these Indigenous sites as being similar to our “churches”. Many of our churches do not allow photography inside. You should be respectful of Indigenous culture and not take photos of these sites.
Report what you find
Being considerate of others also means reporting things you find that are amiss to Kananaskis Dispatch (403-591-7755). Got an outhouse that needs servicing? Call Dispatch. See an overflowing bear-proof garbage bin? Call Dispatch. Find a big tree down on a trail? Call Dispatch. Spy someone camping where they shouldn’t be? Call Dispatch. See someone in a place they shouldn’t be doing something they should be doing (flying a drone for instance)? Call Dispatch.
When we are considerate of other users of K-Country, everyone can have the same wonderful experience we do.
- Limit the noise you make, preferably to just that needed to make your presence known to bears
- Know and follow the trail courtesy rules
- Keep your dog under control
- Admire but do not touch cultural sites
- Report things that are amiss
- Don’t hog viewpoints or lunch sites
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