Basics and Importance of LNT

Who’s favorite thing about hiking is finding trash on the trails?

It’s such a far cry from the truth, and yet a common issue throughout our trail networks. With the uptick of users in the front and backcountry, there needs to be an uptick in education. In Utah, the proximity to the foothills and the Wasatch front make access easy for virtually everybody in the valley. Oftentimes I see groups of people enjoying our trails who are either unaware or uneducated about the ethics of backcountry and front country use.

So, let’s start here: what is LNT?

LNT stands for Leave No Trace, a non-profit created in 1994 to educate users about their impact on the environment. At the time, their main focus was on backcountry users, to educate them on the best practices they’d discovered through scientific research. Since then, LNT has created a front country program to address the issues facing day-use facilities.

Before I dive into the main principles of Leave No Trace, I want to highlight why it’s important.

Our wilderness areas are precious, beautiful ecosystems. For as long as mankind has inhabited the earth, we’ve enjoyed the simple pleasure of venturing out to a stand of pine trees and feeling utterly at peace. As our population continues to grow, our wild areas continue to shrink as we break ground for apartment complexes, housing developments, and strip malls. Thankfully, private and public organizations, along with federal employees, are continually fighting land access and purchase battles to preserve these places.

With all the time and money that goes into protecting these primitive areas, it’s our duty, as users, to maintain and respect the land. Realistically, the more people who are venturing into alpine environments, the more people we need to proactively make minimal impacts on the environment. That’s where Leave No Trace comes in.

These seven principles aren’t rocket science, or even that hard to follow. The more closely we follow them now, the longer we’ll have to enjoy our mountain environments.

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1. Plan Ahead and Prepare

This is as simple as checking the weather, obtaining a map of the area, and letting someone know where you’re going. It follows the line of thinking, “prepare for the worst, and hope for the best.” Most of the time you won’t need your rain jacket, but the time you do, you don’t want to have forgotten it.

2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

I know that pitching a tent in the middle of a field of wildflowers sounds picturesque, but if everyone did that, we’d have no wildflower fields left to enjoy. If you’re going backpacking, chances are someone has been on that trail before you and has set up camp in a similar location you’re looking for. The emphasis is on finding already established campsites instead of creating your own. Think flat, dirt or rock surfaces at least 200ft away from any body of water.

3. Proper Waster Disposal

If your bladder is bursting, ensure you are at least 200ft away from any body of water so as not to contaminate it. If it’s your bowels, dig a 6″-8″ hole, hunker down, and fill it in with dirt when you’re done. If using toilet paper make sure to pack it out instead of burning it. Bring an extra ziplock bag for this purpose!

4. Leave What You Find

This is the hardest principle for me because I love wildflowers. I wish I could come home with a bundle after every hike. But the more I take the fewer there are for others to enjoy. The same goes for rocks, branches, and animal remnants (antlers, bones, etc.).

5. Minimize Campfire Impacts

If possible, use already existing fire rings. If there aren’t any near your campsite, keep your ring small, and try to use dead and down twigs to stoke your fire. Make sure the coals are out before you go to bed, and when leaving the site, it’s recommended you scatter the cooled ashes. The motto with campfires is, “if it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave.”

6. Respect Wildlife

It’s their habitat, we’re the visitors. Bears, Moose, Deer, Mountain Goats, Bobcats, Squirrels, all of them, we are visitors in their territory. Respect their distance. Here’s a funny video that I think is neat and relevant:

7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

A lot of people head to the mountains if they’re seeking solace. Solace, however, can be quite hard to find when someone is blaring their boombox a half-mile down trail, or if someone’s over-friendly border collie won’t stop sniffing your junk while the owner thinks it’s hilarious. Think about disconnecting and not disturbing other users, it’s pretty simple. Take your boombox to the lake, and we’ll all probably be a little happier for it.

 



 

If we think of the wilderness like a co-op, where we’re all part owners and members of this incredible collective, it’s a little easier to enact these principles. You wouldn’t visit someone’s house and trash it, and the same goes for wilderness. Let’s all become more sustainable users.

Any tips and tricks for LNT practices? Leave them in the comments below!

 

Trail Run Tempo

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Trail running can be hard.

In Utah, where 99.9% of all trails head directly UP, and switchbacks are scarce, getting into trail running can be, well, exhausting. If you’re hard-pressed to find a moderate trail to begin on, is it even worth “running” at all if you spend the majority of the time speed-hiking?

When I talk to people about venturing into the world of dirt and scraped knees, the most common, and almost immediate, response is this:

I don’t think I can run the whole thing.

My dear, sweet friends, I have good news for you!

The majority of trail runners walk the uphills.

You read that right! When I first started trail running I had no idea that even the elitest of the elites will hike the uphills and run the downhills (granted their uphills are literal mountains, but still).

So when we’re talking about how fast or slow you should be trail running, the best answer I can find is to do what feels right for YOU and YOUR BODY. It’s easy to get so caught up in what we think we should or shouldn’t be doing, that we make it impossible for ourselves to even start. That’s a nasty trap to get caught in.

In Salt Lake, there are some great, moderate trails for beginners. The Pipeline Trail in Millcreek Canyon, and the Bonneville Shoreline Trail near the Avenues and the University, are both great options. And as you move on from there, give yourself grace, and a high-five for getting out in the first place.

The outdoors can be intimidating, I know from experience. It’s even more intimidating when you live in a place that professional athletes use as their training ground. However, I suggest we use that as motivation to get out and get after it.

Who knows? After a few years of training you could be running laps around the Wasatch.

 

ASDT Rendezvous

You guys. I don’t even know where to start with this post.

I just returned from a weekend long adventure in the mountains with 100+ incredible women from all over the country. img_5895

Women who drove from Oregon, who flew from Florida, who carpooled from Salt Lake City.

And why? Because there’s something stirring in all of us. There’s an energy in our souls that calls us to come together because there’s power in numbers. There’s power in knowing and being known, in understanding a bit more of ourselves by learning about others and their stories.

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I heard about And She’s Dope Too through Instagram (you can check out their feed here, or their website here), and stumbled upon the information through their Rendezvous when I was poking around on their online shop. Immediately I thought, a weekend getaway with a bunch of outdoorsy women? I’m in!

So I packed up my car, nervous and wary about showing up by myself, and jumped onto I-15 to Ogden. Once I saw the ASDT pop-up tents, and turned into the Dancing Moose Farms parking lot, all my fears were contained as I was welcomed with genuine smiles from the check-in table.

After only a few hours, I knew I was attending a life-changing event.

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The women who shared their stories around the campfire are women who have overcome great obstacles. They are women who have gone from not wanting to get out of bed in the morning to inspiring thousands of people to run. They are women who have been stirred from the monotonous lifestyles they grew up with to passionate, curiosity-driven whirlwinds of light and self-love and intrinsic power.

I am so inspired.

With each women I met I became more inspired. I was inspired by the woman who decided to reconnect to herself in nature after her divorce. I was inspired by the woman who didn’t think she could stand-up paddle board, but attempted (and succeeded!) anyways. I was inspired by the many married women who refuse to fill the entire role of caretaker, housekeeper, dinner-maker because they have passions of their own they so desperately need to pursue.

And also, I was inspired by the men at home who encourage and empower their wives to participate in events like this because they know that the power of women is not something to fear, but instead something to embrace.

There is still so much I need to process, but as I do you’ll all be the first to know.

My deepest, most sincere thanks to ASDT for putting on a weekend where I could feel fully free and deeply known.

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She is free in her wildness, she is a wanderess, a drop of free water. She knows nothing of borders and cares nothing for rules or customs. ‘Time’ for her isn’t something to fight against. Her life flows clean, with passion, like fresh water. -Roman Payne

The Overwhelming Nature of Anxiety

A couple months ago I summited a peak, all by myself, for the first time in my life. And let me tell you, it felt amazing.

There are a few things many people don’t know about me:

  • I am constantly anxious. As in, my mind continuously comes up with the worst-case scenario in each situation and runs through it over and over and over again until I’m essentially a basket case of nerves and emotions.
  • For a long time I’ve let this anxiety rule my life. I’ve shied away from climbing, hiking, taking risks. I’ve worked myself into a panic when I didn’t hear back from a loved one for a few hours. I’ve been overwhelmed with negative possibilities time and time again.
  • However, generally speaking, I’m an optimist.

Wait, what?

I know. It’s confusing, even to myself. I’m a positive person. I believe in the goodness placed in the souls of humanity. I believe if we continue to better ourselves we can become the stewards of this planet that we’re capable of being. I believe that kindness, conversation, and perspective can overcome the evils continuously presenting themselves in our world. With my heart, I genuinely believe all of these things.

But then my brain goes to the dark side. The fat-chance side. The one-in-a-million side. Like getting mauled by a cougar. Or losing any member of my family to any number of diseases or devastating circumstances like murder or car accidents. Or coming across a crazy in the woods. Or my bolt pulling. Or triggering an avalanche. And for the longest time these scenarios that haven’t even happened to anybody I know dominated the hemispheres of my brain until I felt overwhelmed and isolated and stuck. How would I ever live my life to the fullest if I kept suffocating under the weight of my anxiety?

Then I had an “aha!” moment. I never wanted to label this for what it was. I thought I was just another worrier (and maybe I am, I haven’t seen a doctor for a diagnosis for personal reasons), but I googled anxiety and what I found honestly changed my life. Our brain is our most powerful tool, and when used to benefit our livelihood, dreams, goals, and aspirations, it can alter our lifestyles dramatically.

It’s one phrase:

“I’m going to worry about this later.”

So. Stinking. Simple.

Because what happens when you worry about it later is that when later comes, there’s nothing left to worry about. The irrational fear has passed. You’re in a new environment and whatever presents itself there will be worried about in the next environment. It’s fear-shifting. By pushing fears into the future I’m more capable of living in the present. Fully.

I will tell you though, sometimes it doesn’t work. Sometimes I still feel trapped under this oppressive fear and negativity. Like a few weeks ago when I was hiking in Neff’s canyon all by my lonesome, and something moved in the bushes, and I couldn’t spook it, so I eventually turned around and walked the other way. The defeat I felt weighed heavy on my sensitive soul, but this is what I knew, it was temporary and the next day would be different. And it was.

I hiked up to Grandeur Peak with just my backpack and my not-so-shiny new approach shoes. I didn’t put headphones in, and I continuously reeled my mind back in to my breathing, to the beautiful sounds of life around me, to worrying about it later. Like magic, I didn’t assume every slithery sound was a snake lying in wait, but instead I heard lizards and marmots and squirrels. The thick stand of trees I passed through didn’t have my eyeballs dodging between every narrow space, instead I stood in awe of their massive stance, of their roots stretching deep into the earth and their branches reach, reach, reaching for the sky.

When I finally made the summit, winded, sweaty, and awe-struck I couldn’t keep from giggling. Up there I had nothing to worry about besides my place in this beautiful, living, breathing, ever-changing, natural world.

And that, my friends, was pretty fantastic.

She was powerful not because she wasn’t scared, but because she went on so strongly, despite the fear. -Atticus

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Solo Summit. My first ever! Grandeur Peak 8,299′