Over the years as I have gone hiking around Washington, I am still appalled at behavior of other trail hikers. At this point I no longer go hiking up to Rattlesnake Ledge after witnessing some very scary sh*t of some people on the ledge. Last summer I hiked many spectacular places in western Washington, but what the pictures don’t show you is the bad behavior some users have left behind. Most trail, mountaineer, back-country organizations and US Forest Service have stressed enough times is, LEAVE NO TRACE BEHIND of your presences.
Still there are people who are “trail” jerks who think it is okay not to follow common sense or trail etiquette. A Trail Jerk is defined as people who do not get it-who think they can do anything they want whether they want to where ever they want because “we are taxpayers and no one is going to tell us what we can and can’t do” (If you think you maybe a trail jerk take this quiz by PNW Adventure Sisters).
With Seattle having an influx of people who want to get out of the city enjoy nature, there are going to be problems arising on trails. These problems don’t have to be the norm (never should be!) if all trail users (including pets) followed common sense rules and laws.
Here are some important rules to follow on your next hike through nature:
Keep dogs on leashes
Not only does it protect your dog from wildlife, but keeps other trail users safe from your dog. People on trails do get injured from dogs not on a leash after falls, or trips happen. Imagine causing someone to fall off a side of cliff because your dog tripped them? Also it protects sensitive areas that would take years to restore once disturbed.
Know the right way
What does this mean? It means when encountering other hikers on the trail, the general rule is the person going downhill yields to the person going uphill. I have seen countless times people not yielding to each other only to shoulder checking each other while passing. On mix use trails mountain bikes yield to hikers and everyone, yes everyone, must yield to horses.
Step aside to let people pass
Like driving on a freeway, let the faster hikers, and trail runners pass you. If you are the fast hiker or trail runner, make sure to make your presence known to the other with a polite simple hello or excuse me when approaching. Also to other hikers, be aware of those around you in case someone is trying to pass. It is better to make yourself known when passing as to not surprise the person.
Hiking in groups
When hiking in a group don’t take up the whole width of the trail not allowing people to pass your group. Hiking in a single file line is much appreciated, and still can have a conversation with those in the group.
Taking a trail break or stopping
Move off the trail or over the side when you need a break or stopping for a nature selfie. Allowing people to pass is common curtsies bestowed on others, which will be returned further up or down the trail. Also do not abruptly stop in the middle of the trail with people behind unless there is something very wrong up ahead.
Stay on the trail
This should be common sense. Leave not trace is not a rule, but a necessity.
Speak in low voices whenever possible. Hiking on the trail for some is to be in a quiet place where they can listen to nature’s soundtrack instead of the latest rap song! Playing music as you hike through a speaker disturbs not only nature, but disturbs other people who come for peace and quiet. Please, just please, use headphones if you like a hiking soundtrack other then nature’s. I thank you in advance for this.
Pack all waste out
Human, pet, food, etc. Just pack out what you hiked in with (unless water). Do not relieve yourself outdoors unless 200ft from the trail and away from water sources. Those who happen upon someone relieving themselves, just keep moving on!
Let cairns be
Cairn are pyramids of small rocks that mark trail routes and decorate mountain summits. Hikers rely on cairns to find their way along trails. Respect them! Destroying them is a no-no!
We all want to have an enjoyable experience in nature, so do not be trail jerks and follow simple etiquette rules for everyone.