Etiquette means behaving yourself a little better than is absolutely essential.-Will Cuppy
I don’t know about you, but the reason I love being out in the woods is to get away from the insanity of what has become today’s society. Unfortunately, over the course of the last 10 years, I have noticed a marked decline in the actions that used to be the norm when you would be out hiking. The poor behavior that folks exhibit in everyday life is now quickly becoming an unwanted reality in the one place where so many go to seek refuge.
Granted, I can’t say that this occurs everywhere, but in my neck of the woods, the Hudson Valley of New York, I have been witness to a willful disregard of what I consider to be common sense trail etiquette.
Here are three of my biggest pet peeves (in no particular order):
Noise on the Trail:
If I’m hiking alone, I really enjoy listening to the sounds of nature. The leaves rustling in the winds, the sound of my boots in the dirt as I hike along the trail, and the water running in a stream. Each of these is incredibly soothing to my mind and body.
Now, if I am hiking with another person or in a small group, I do like to talk, oftentimes because it is to catch up with them because I might not have seen them in some time. When we do hold a conversation, it is at a reasonable level.
Here’s the problem. When I can hear a group coming from half a mile away, you are talking too loudly. Common courtesy says that you should at least make an attempt to keep your conversation amongst yourselves. Remember when we used to tell our kids to use their “inside voices?”
This all becomes moot, of course, if you see a bear. Then you are free to yell as loud as you want.
I never thought I would say this, but music has also become a problem on the trail. Regardless of whether I like the music you listen to or not, I shouldn’t have to listen along with you while I am trying to enjoy my hike. With technological advances, this has become even most evident at popular viewpoints where hikers have no problem taking out small portable speakers and subjecting the rest of us to their musical tastes instead of enjoying what nature offers. That’s what headphones are made for.
Leave No Trace
The amount of garbage I have picked up over the years, even in remote areas, is, quite frankly, unbelievable. Even before “leave no trace” became a thing, it was pretty much understood that you DON’T LITTER!!! It really isn’t that difficult to pick up your trash and dispose of it properly. Or is it?
Dogs on the trail
Being a lifelong dog owner, I can tell you that I love dogs. I have always considered each one that I have had as a member of my family. With that said, I knew that a couple of them didn’t have the temperament to take out hiking. Not that they were aggressively mean, but they tended to be on the rambunctious side, and I knew that this might scare small children and unexpecting adults. The solution is simple: keep your dog on a leash if you are going to bring them hiking. I have met some really nice dogs on the trail, but when you are in the zone, an unleashed dog, no matter how nice, can be an issue.
For some of you, none of this may be a problem. I respect that, But just as I do, please remember that you aren’t alone out there. Everyone out there, young and old, should be able to hike in peace if they choose to do so.