Caring for and Healing the Earth

Wilderness Caretaking

Walking in the Wilderness in a Caretaking Manner:
Walking off-trail in Nature without impact - some tips and pointers

by Walter Muma

1.  Act like you are entering someone's home. When we visit another person's home, we are invited in, first to the livingroom. You don't go farther unless you're invited to. You certainly don't go snooping around and peeking inside closets and drawers. So too with Nature. This is someone's home. And it's not yours. make sure that you are welcome to enter. Feel it out - is it ok to go somewhere - don't just walk in. Ask. Use your "gut feeling", your "inner vision", "intuition". Be invited.
   You will find that with this method your experience will of course be much richer, because you will be more aware, and more will be shown to you.

2.  Don't return the same way you go in. Use a different route to avoid creating any sort of trail, no matter how subtle. Caretaking of the wild, pathless areas means not attracting others to the same area. Avoid enlarging or emphasizing existing trails. If there's a faint trail, either tread carefully on it so as to not make it more obvious or avoid it altogether.

3.  In snow, if there's a couple or more of you, either spread out to spread the impact of your footsteps, or step in the same footprints, single file, leaving only one set behind. Big human footprints can last a very long time in snow if the conditions are right (warm and then colder).

4.  When you leave an established trail to head off into a pathless area, make no disturbance, leave no sign that shows where you left the trail.  Also try not to be seen by others. Go in quickly a bit of a distance, to get out of sight as quickly as practical. The idea is to not encourage others to go off trail, to follow where you've gone. To many casual hikers, going off trail is something that they don't think of. Let's keep it that way.

5.  Walk in harmony with your surroundings. Move slowly. Don't unnecessarily force your way through dense bush. Don't break off branches to make a path for your bulky human body. Leave no obvious sign of your passing. Don't walk through muddy areas unless necessary. Try not to tread on plants any more than necessary. All of the foregoing is of course, "within reason". Fox walking is a good way to slow down and get more into harmony with your surroundings.

6.  Keep the noise down. Loud talking and artificial noises (metal sounds, radios, artificial bird callers, etc) are non-natural and out of place. They are disturbing to the resident animals and birds. Out of harmony. And as well these noise attract other people off-trail.

7.  Practice awareness. Open up your senses to all that's around you. Use all of your senses. Touch. Smell. This greatly helps you to be more in harmony with your surroundings, and therefore less intrusive.

8.  Wear muted colors. Loud colors like bright yellow, orange, red and blue are not appropriate. These create visual pollution, and clash with the natural colors of the landscape.

9.  Act like a Scout. No, not a Boy Scout, but the ancient Scouts of the land, who moved unseen and unheard across the landscape.

10.  Don't wear scents. Again, these are out of place and cna be disturbing to the natural flow of things.

11.  Obviously....Don't leave behind any garbage or litter, don't carve initials on trees, peel tree bark, tie flagging tape to trees and plants, overturn rocks and logs (the roof to someone's home), trample an area, etc etc etc. These are all obvious things, but are still worth mentioning.

12.  Consider wearing footwear that doesn't have a large knobby tread. Hiking boots with a large tread can really chew up the ground.

13.  Expose yourself to the elements more. Be willing to get cool, wet, sunburnt, insect-bitten, dirty. Immerse yourself in the outdoors. Be more a part of the Natural world. See Nature not as something that you must protect yourself from, but rather as something to "plunge" into. With the willingness to be more exposed to Nature, you will become more attuned to it, and will move in a less alien manner through it.

14.  Bringing guidebooks and journals and notebooks into the natural places to aid in your Nature study is great. But consider leaving them all behind sometimes. Set aside periods of time for simply "being" in Nature. Time for the mind to rest, and allow the senses and inner vision/intuition to grow and expand.

15.  use your inner vision when deciding what to do about removing human items that have been left out in nature, or dumped (garbage, flagging tape, etc). Sometimes these items of garbage are being used as shelter by animals and insects. Move carefully, without haste. Wait until you have received a clear leading as to what to do. This of course applies to all Caretaking actions, at any time.


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