I always have to consider others when hiking, even if the purpose of the hike is to “get away” from everything and everybody because, let’s face it, lots of folks, just like me, relish the escape of the great outdoors. So even if I find myself in the remotest of remote spots, someone will inevitably show up there as well.
Therefore, good manners are a fundamental component of a successful hike. Listed below are five additional rules of the trail.
Stay on the trail
This rule is important for two reasons. First, walking on soil other than the trail causes soil compaction, or the pressing together of soil particles, the creating the reduction of air and water flow, the results of which can be detrimental to both the microbes and plants living there.
Second, usually folks more acquainted with the area have developed the trails. Risks and dangers have been considered, and the safest route has been chosen. Remaining on the trail is the best bet in avoiding accidents.
Take turns looking
This rule was very evident last summer when we visited Niagara Falls. The number of visitors there was astounding. According to Travel and Leisure, in 2011, it was the fifth most popular destination in the world, with more than 22,000,000 people vacationing there each year.
I found that a lot of those people knew how to “play nice.” The closer we got to the falls, the more folks hovered by the gate. However, each person would just stay there for a moment or two, and then relinquish that coveted spot to the next onlooker. It was awesome to see that taking turns is a worldwide practice.
Also take turns when photographing
Everyone wants to capture the moment, and many times I’ve seen avid photographers jockeying for position. Some find that “sweet spot”, and remain there for quite a while, while others wait in the wings.
My time and memories are important, but so are the time and memories of my fellow hiker.
And while we’re at it, offer to take a family’s photo
One of my favorite family photos was taken at Yosemite National Park by a complete stranger on a motorcycle. We had just arrived at the very popular Tunnel View lookout point, and Kurt was trying to photograph the kids and me. The gentleman simply asked, “Would you like to take a picture with your family?” And, of course, we said yes!
I had read that this behavior was common and actually encouraged at Yosemite. We’ve made it a habit to try to pay it forward on our trips closer to home. I mean, it’s a simple gesture that makes people smile. And couldn’t we all use more smiles?
My Grandpa Sixto had a very wise saying, “It don’t cost nothing to be nice.”
Hiking is always much more pleasant when one is greeted by folks along the trail with a smile, a word of encouragement, or even a amicable nod. These gestures are simple, yet have the power to turn one’s day around.
We would all be a little better off if that power was utilized more frequently!