Trail Manners

It’s the weekend! You’ve got your daypack organized, your Camelbak full of cool water, and a new trail picked out — thanks, let’s say, to that new friend you made at work. She has promised that you’ll see things you’ve never seen before on this trail, and since she shops at Uncle Sam’s and has read all of Tim Ernst’s books on Arkansas trails, you believe her. Make a good impression on her by remembering some basic trail manners.

First, and probably it goes without saying – take your trash with you. You have to carry some snacks to keep up with Ms. Mountaineer, but you don’t have to leave the packaging behind. It’s lighter now that it’s empty anyway, right? Many trailheads have a trash receptacle available, so if you’re lucky you won’t even have to take it home.

Check the regulations before you take your pet along. Many day hike trails are good for a walk with man’s best friend, but in some places they aren’t allowed. Be sure to check the rules for the trail you’ll be hiking before getting the poor guy all excited about his new harness and collapsible water dish. If pets are allowed, make sure you are equipped to remove his waste. Not only does doggie doo clutter up the landscape, but it annoys the local territorial critters.
Don’t pick flowers: take your camera. If you must record your trek, don’t keep flora as a souvenir, just take some pictures to print later. Maybe you could make a little postcard book to share with your new hiking buddy. She probably loves wildflowers. We suggest wild hydrangea.

Stick to the trail. There are a lot of volunteers all over our beautiful state who spend many, many hours each year clearing and maintaining the extensive network of trails. Don’t be disrespectful of their hard work by trying to clear your own. Making your own trail can disrupt migratory paths and feeding or nesting grounds. Stick to the marked paths and campsites for your safety and that of the animals who call your trail their home.

Speaking of the natives: give wildlife the right-of-way. Some people actually like to approach wild animals that they see while out in the woods. We think this is a monumentally bad idea (especially if you see bears). There are those creatures like snakes and skunks that are a little more intimidating than others. But even the cute little bunny rabbits and deer should be left alone. Wild animals are easily stressed, and can have a hard time adjusting to new scents and disturbance of their habitat. If you come upon a wild animal while you’re enjoying our beautiful Ozark mountain trails, simply take a knee, appreciate the scene in front of you, and let them continue on their way before you resume your hike.

We hope you have a great time enjoying the spectacular outdoor opportunities that we’re lucky enough to have just down the road from us. Just a little common sense and courtesy will help ensure that those who come after you can enjoy it as well.

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