I remember where I was on the very first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970: Standing mid-thigh in central Pennsylvania’s Buffalo Creek, ostensibly taking measurements of stream flow but instead watching the very expensive stream-flow measuring device break its cable and disappear quickly downstream. I remember this more than a half century later because our usually mild-mannered science teacher, Mr. Morris, became wildly animated as he told just how expensive the device, which he’d borrowed, was.
And then, it was summer.
After a week of overnight lows, at least in our next of the Piedmont, in the low 40s and long-sleeve shirts reappearing during the day, we’re suddenly looking at temperatures as high as the low 90s in parts of our exploring area.
“Also, please leash your pets,” Jennifer commented on our Facebook page. “I know they love to run, but some of us have been attacked and this situation makes me a nervous wreck.”
To wit, six additional rules of etiquette pertaining to our four-legged hiking companions.
- Leash your dog. A good place to start — thanks, Jennifer. Most places where we hike — state parks, municipal parks, national parks, nature preserves — require that your dog be leashed, and many require that they be on a six-foot leash, not a 16-foot retractable tether that can wreak havoc for unsuspecting hikers, cyclists, equestrians. The reasons for leashing are many. At the top of the list is that some hikers aren’t comfortable with dogs, especially ones that come bounding up to them in the wild, friendly though they may be. There’s also the matter of protecting the dog from—squirrel! Fido’s primal olfactory instincts kick in and he may never be seen again.
- Keep the other end of the leash attached to you. Yes, it does need saying. At lease twice we’ve had loopholers let their dogs run free, the leash dragging behind them. We’ve since included this seemingly obvious aspect of the leash rule to our prehike instructions.
- Pick up your pup’s poop. Everywhere you hike, this is the rule. But more than being a rule, it’s just common courtesy to your fellow hikers. Hopefully, we don’t need to elaborate.
- … And take the poop bag with you. Well, yes, actually, we do need to elaborate: After you have bagged said poop, take it with you, do not leave it packaged by the side of the trail. We’ve heard more than one hiker say, “I’ll pick it up on my way out.” If this is the explanation behind every trailside receptacle of refuse we spot, then somewhere deep in the woods there are hundreds of hikers and their dogs wandering in search of the “way out.”
- Seek permission before petting. I know: every dog looks like it wants to be petted. Even so, ask permission before taking a knee and diving into a rousing round of, “Who’s-a-good-good-good dog?” with a dog you don’t know — and, perhaps more importantly, doesn’t know you.
- Know your dog. Not all dogs like other dogs. Or people. If your dog has an iffy history with other critters, avoid heavily trafficked trails at busy times.
One more etiquette addendum. Sharon wrote on our Facebook page to “tell mountain bikers that the rules for them are not suspended on Saturdays (or ever).” Her suggestion was based on a recent visit to DuPont State Forest, home to miles of multiuse trail.
“I encountered dozens and dozens of enthusiastic dirt warriors speeding in both directions and very few of them paused. They were eager to tell us how many more of them were behind us, however.”
That lead to a brief back-and-forth about multiuse trails, about how they tend not to work in places where recreationalists of different mobile persuasions aren’t used to coexisting. The 10,000-acre DuPont is an oasis of multiuse in a sea of mostly segregated trails in the nearby Pisgah National Forest. Thus, a couple etiquette suggestions especially pertinent to multiuse trails:
- Hikers, stay to the right. Hikers should skew to the right of a multiuse trail. In part, that’s because it makes the next bit of etiquette advice easier …
- On your left. We touched on this passing admonition last week for hikers and runners; it’s especially important when dealing with hikers and bikers. A biker coming up on a hiker should slow and issue the advisory no later than 30 to 50 feet before encountering the hiker. The hiker already favoring the right side of the trail need only take a quick additional step to the right to avoid conflict. A quick “thanks,” a quick “you’re welcome” and we’re good.
- Additional cyclists? Sharon noted in her comment that the mountain bikers “were eager to tell us how many more of them were behind us.” That’s a courtesy, so the hiker knows that it would be good to stay on the right side of the trail until the announced number of cyclists have passed.
Observing a few simple, common sense rules of trail etiquette will come in especially handy over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, when the trails will be packed. Be considerate, and have a great hike!
Speaking of a busy Thanksgiving weekend
In conjunction with our partners at Great Outdoor Provision Co., our GetHiking! chapters in North Carolina and Virginia will be sponsoring six hikes this Friday, known in retail circles as Black Friday, known at Great Outdoor Provision Co. as Chill Friday. Here’s a list of those six hikes. For more information on each, go here.
=&9=& Brumley Forest Nature Preserve, Hillsborough. 9 a.m.
We head into the wayback machine again to revisit the timely topic of trail etiquette. The following first appeared here on March 19, 2010. It reappears today, with minor revisions.
Sunday, I was running the bike and bridle trail at Umstead when I came upon a sizable obstacle: a phalanx of hikers bearing backpacks spanned the width of the trail, spilling over onto the shoulders. The trail is quiet generous, a converted fire road that should be capable of handling boatloads of trail users without conflict. Provided those trail users are cognizant of other trail users. Which brings us to today’s topic:
It’s a particularly relevant topic considering highs reaching into the mid to upper 70s accompanied by ample sunshine are bringing legions of hikers into the woods. Warm weather, lots of sunshine, plenty of people on the trail. A few gentle reminders for making sure everyone has a good time out on the trail.
After a long spell of rain, you owe it to yourself to spend the weekend outdoors. The opportunities for doing so abound.
How many chances do you get to run a 5K through a swamp? Not too many.
Saturday, though, you have the chance at the Millpond Day 5K Family Fun Run/Walk at Merchants Millpond State Park. The run is on park trail that winds through bottomland coastal forest and brushes against the park’s 760-acre millpond. It’s part of Millpond Day, a celebration that includes exhibits, programs, entertainment, kids activities, food and more. And, there’s always the opportunity to paddle the millpond in a rental canoe.
Logistics: Millpond Day 5K Family Fun Run/Walk, Saturday, April 29, 8:30 a.m. Merchants Millpond State Park, Gatesville. More info here.
Saturday forecast: Mostly sunny with a high of 92.
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Looking ahead: Carnivorous Plant Hike, Sunday, May 21, Carolina Beach State Park, Carolina Beach. More info here.
It’s early, but it’s worth the odds of catching the first bloom of mountain laurel in the state on Sunday’s weekly hike in the Eno River Association’s spring series. Mountain laurel, as its name might suggest, is typically found in the higher, cooler climes of the mountains. However, it’s also found in shaded, protected pockets of the Piedmont, including spots along the Eno River. One of those spots is on the appropriately named Laurel Bluffs Trail at Eno River State Park.
Sunday, the Eno River Association leads a hike on the trail in search of the lovely flower of the mountain laurel. The hike commences from the headquarters of the Eno River Association, at the corner of Guess Road and the Eno River, heads 2.5 miles upstream to the Pump Station Access, then returns.
Logistics: Laurel Bluffs Trail hike, Sunday, April 30, 2 p.m., Eno River Association office, 4404 Guess Road, Durham. More info here.
Saturday forecast: Mostly sunny, high of 85.
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Looking ahead: Can’t make Sunday’s hike? There are three more in the spring series. Learn when and where, here.
You don’t often see a duathlon pairing whitewater kayaking and road cycling. But you do this weekend, at Jerry’s Baddle on and near the Green River of western North Carolina. Launched in 2006 to honor ALS victim Jerry Beckwith and to raise money for the ALS Association North Carolina Chapter, the event consists of 4 miles of whitewater paddling on the Green River followed by 26 miles of road cycling with 4,000 feet of total climbing. Note: the whitewater portion includes the Class V Narrows portion of the Green River Gorge.
Logistics: Jerry’s Baddle, Saturday, April 29, Saluda. $55. More info here.