Most Recent Blogs

Jul 22, 2015

You may want to take home a prized souvenir from your hike or backpacking trip...but is it really worth it?  Take a look at this American Alpine Institute article about the significance of leaving what you find in the backcountry.  

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Jul 21, 2015

Catskill Mountains, NY:  Starfail, Pro-tip, Buckeye, Catnap, Smiley, Jethro, Gilgamesh, Giggles…what is the story behind all these “trail names”.  Where do they come from?  Why do they exist? 

This week we, the Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainers East Central Team, accepted a challenge to hike one of the toughest trails east of the continental divide:  Devil’s Path in the Catskills.  Testing our endurance, the grueling hike led us over five peaks that reached above 3,500 feet, through boulder fields, and up rock faces.  As we marched forward, ready to defeat the army of obstacles on Devil’s Path, we soon realized that our demeanor was everything but militant.  Rather, we were clumsy and giggly; like a puppy chasing its first ball: tripping over invisible lines, running into objects that seemed to step directly into our path; and then, as if we hadn’t just slipped through a mud puddle, we would jump back to our feet in boastful laughter:  “Katelyn, I can see why they called you, Giggles on the Appalachian Trail.”  Blake said.

In 2013, I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, and this, my friends, was the first time I learned of trail names.  Trail names are appointed to individual hikers for several reasons: A) It is easier to remember the name, Catnap than it is to remember, Trevor, not to mention the fact that there might be multiple, Trevors on the trail and only one Catnap.  B) It allows hikers to embrace their wild side and become part of the hiking community that they love so much, and trail names just happen to be key phonic in the hiker lingo. C) Trail names, generally, give a glimpse of information about the hiker:  Catnap was known for getting up early in the morning, hiking a few miles, and then cuddling up behind a boulder or in some pine-straw for a quick, midmorning nap.  It is this third reason that is my favorite; the revealing of how one earned his/her trail name.

As Blake proclaimed his understanding of my trail name, Giggles, a short anecdote fast-forwarded into my thoughts, and I proceeded to tell him the tale of, Dirty Rice.  A tale that reminds us to plan ahead and prepare and to respect wildlife.  A tale that will never let you forget how important it is to… well you will find out soon enough.

Dirty Rice—then answering to his birthed, muggle, name, for which I to this day do not know—set out, head strong to hike the entire 2,200 miles-ish of the Appalachian Trail.  His posture began to wilt, like a parabolic graph showing the number of hikers who start the Appalachian Trail but don’t quite make it to the finish line, as the weight of his crammed Deuter Pack rose and sank with each step ascending from Amicalola Falls to Springer Mountain, Georgia: the approach trail.  From dawn till dusk he lugged his pack to the top, all the while planning to eat the biggest Ramon and beef jerky dinner imaginable.  

He arrives, anxious to set camp before all the lurking critters pounce.  It takes a few attempts to straighten the ground tarp and guy out the rainfly, but now, as he cools his decadent feast, he admires his castle.

As his eyes become weary and the wild hooting, howling, and stick breaking creeps closer, Dirty Rice sees other hikers rigging their bear bags high in the surrounding tree branches, reminding him to safely store his rations for the next five days. 

He grabs a piece of string, a Sea to Summit sack, and does his best to secure the food in a strong, sergeant-like tree.  To assure he can quickly retrieve his breakfast come morning, he stands below the hanging sack, reaches up, and grazes the sack with his fingertips and thinks: “Perfect.  With a few hops in the morning, I can have that bag down in no time.”

Morning came.  Fast.  With a full bladder, an empty stomach, and the hope that he was not too sore for the hop needed to retrieve the stash…turns out he wasn’t.  In fact, no hop necessary: and it wasn’t because he grew a few inches in the night. 

As he approached, he noticed a bright orange Reses wrapper.  A jerky stick.  A spoon?  No, not a spoon… HIS spoon!  The tree soldier guarding his loot now looked like a sapling.  A twig!  And the only evidence that his bear hang was once there, was the pathetic, limp string that now tickled the top of his lowered head.

It was gone.

All of it.

Well, almost all of it.  Hidden in the paw prints beneath the dangling string was nothing but (I’m sure you have guessed it by now)…dirty rice.  For the next 2 days, his menu consisted of dirty rice and dirty rice only. 

Though this comedy makes for a good trail name story; it is extremely important to learn from Dirty Rice’s mistakes.  Be sure to practice proper food storage skills, because  “A fed bear is a dead bear”.  This sounds extremely harsh, but in many cases is true.  According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, from 2009 to 2013 state wildlife officials euthanized 529 bears (2015).  That is three times the amount of bears killed in the previous five-year span.  Check out this interview to find more about why.

Remember, bear hangs should include all smellables (food, drinks, lotions, toothpaste, etc.) and be at least 12 feet high and 6 feet from any branch or tree trunk.  Scout your backyard or a local park and practice your skills before hitting the trail…or you could be the next, Dirty Rice.  

Hike your own hike, 

Giggles, I mean Katelyn and Blake.

Leave No Trace’s Katelyn Stutterheim and Blake Jackson are part of the 2015 Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Program that provides free, mobile education to communities across the country. Proud partners of this program include Subaru of America, Deuter, Hi-Cone, REI, Smartwool, The North Face, and Yakima.



Jul 20, 2015

Hornings Hideout, OR: In the practice of Leave No Trace we ask that you please leave what you find. To communicate this principle we utilize the maxim, "Take only pictures, leave only footprints." As Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainers we are often in amazingly beautiful locations and find ourselves asking the question, "How do we take better pictures and capture the moments that inspire us to keep playing outside?" In order to bring you practical tips, as well as ways to improve your creative process surrounding photography, we caught up with Professional Photographer Woods Wheatcroft at the Northwest String Summit. He was on-site capturing a sustainable movement that is taken place at festivals nationwide - the transition to using Klean Kanteen reusable pint glasses over those infamous red plastic cups that in years past have sprout up like flowers after a desert rainstorm when the music grinds to a halt. Imagine the difference we could make if ever festival goer was required to drink with a reusable cup! Alas, we digress. Watch the interview to see what goes on behind the lens! To see beautiful photos click over to Enjoy your world and please leave what you find.

"The still photo is still magic and there are still magicians that reach deep into the top hat and pull out rabbits. Woods Wheatcroft has the hat; he can bring the rabbit."

Behind The Lens: Interview With Pro Photographer Woods Wheatcroft

Sam: My Name is Sam I am a Subaru/ Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer and I am here with Woods Wheatcroft. Woods what do you do for a living? 

Woods: I am a Professional Photographer.

Sam: Nice.

Sam: Woods, if you could give people one piece of advice on taking great photos what would it be?

Woods: Shoot everything and you will eventually gravitate towards your interest. I feel like in my case I’ve gravitated towards the life I want to live. Which is an outdoor life. So the lifestyle photography that I shoot tends to be the life that I am is the life that I’m living. I blur the lines between work and play. 

Sam: What is your favorite location you’ve ever shot photos at?

Woods: My Favorite location would probably have to be the Torres Del Paine down in Chile, but on a more consistent and frequent basis I love going to Death Valley. Death Valley’s incredible. Between the light and the circumstances it is almost like the absence of so much, gives so much. It's like a blank canvas and any idea can be played here or there and it’s wonderful. I like the desert a lot.

Sam: Ok. Chile and the Desert it is?

Woods: Yep.

Sam: What do you carry in your camera kit when go out to shoot photos?

Woods: I typically travel pretty light... I feel like it’s a light kit in terms of photographers. I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark III and I still love film, but I love instant film so I shoot with an old polaroid. And then I’m also shooting a little tiny Fuji Instax camera. It’s super fun. 

Sam: Oh Cool!

Woods: There is still the immediate gratification out there and with film it’s really fun! I’ve actually done it a lot at this festival. Take photos, give them to people. It’s wonderful.

Sam: Any tips for shooting compelling photo’s of people?

Woods: Um…sure, I love shooting people. It’s one of my favorite subjects. People offer so many dynamic, spontaneous opportunities. I try to steer my ship away from the predictability, the looking at the camera, the cheesy. I really like to get people in a creative circle and know that my circle is sort of established and as that breaks apart I do find those real moments within that. That to me is a compelling shot of a person. When they don’t really know they are being photographed.

Sam: How do you make people feel comfortable around a camera?

Woods: Tequila

Sam and Woods: (Laughing together)

Jenna: Woods you spend a lot of time in beautiful areas, why do you think it is important to practice Leave No Trace?

Woods: It feels like a no-brainer to me. It’s much easier for me to pick up something when I see it out there. From micro trash all the way to cleaning up hot springs. I’ve been doing that for years. I take trash bags into places where I know there’s going to be evidence of other people out there, but even in my own experiences I feel like it’s...

Jenna: You’re compelled to do it?

Woods: No, It’s… Yeah It’s easy.

Jenna: That’s great! Yeah it is easy.

Woods: It’s easy for me and it can be easy for everybody!

Jenna: Yeah I agree. Just trying to leave places better than you found them?

Woods: Always. 

Jenna: My name is Jenna and we’ve had a wonderful time chatting with woods, if you’d like to see more of his photography you can visit and he shoots for some really awesome brands like Patagonia, Ibex, Kavu and Klean Kanteen to name a few. He does some great work. Check him out!

Jenna: Thanks so much for hanging out with us we had a great time!

Woods: You bet, thank you! 

Jenna and Sam

Leave No Trace’s Jenna Hanger and Sam Ovett are part of the 2015 Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Program that provides free, mobile education to communities across the country. Proud partners of this program include Subaru of America, Deuter, Hi-Cone, REI, Smartwool, The North Face, and Yakima.

Jul 14, 2015

Savage River State Forest, MD—The devastating invasion of the Gypsy Moth is still apparent almost a decade after its fateful descent upon the majestic White and Red Oak of the Savage River State Forest. 

Invasive species have a detrimental effect on ecosystems across the world but are largely ignored until they hit close to home, destroying precious resources that in some cases we cannot get back.  Such was the case with the American Chestnut in the early 1900’s when an invasive fungal infection was accidentally introduced by imported Chinese Chestnut trees.  The result: billions of American Chestnuts were destroyed.  The U.S. Department of Interior has reported spending one hundred million dollars in a single year on invasive species prevention, eradication, and habitat restoration across the nation; and yet, the battle still rages on. Cost of invasive species--fact sheet

The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics believes that education and awareness is key to protecting our environment and this prevailing issue, to eradicate invasive species, is no different.

In the summers of 2006 and 2007, the Savage River State Forest was attacked with consecutive waves of Gypsy moths.  The moths swept through the area, leaving a wake of destruction that resulted in thousands of dead trees.    

Note the hundreds of barren trees in the distance--even after almost a decade of healing.

How the Maryland Department of Natural Resources reacted to such devastation was extremely clever.  The department decided that instead of cutting down the stately trees, they would commemorate the forest by turning the stumps of selected trees into totems symbolizing strength and wisdom.  The strength needed to stand tall against the invasion of the moths, and the wisdom we must garner so such fates do not happen again.  The battle in the old growth forests of Garrett County, MD will be remembered as visitors pose next to the oak carvings and read the plaques describing the battle.

This Bald Eagle, constructed from the remnants of a great Red Oak, is meant to symbolize strength and vigilance as it overlooks the Savage River State Forest.  Close by, a White Oak stands tall as a black bear watching over travelers who pass, as a reminder of the dangers that invasive species inflict and the role that we play in protecting our forest and the animals whom live there.  The black bear also represents one of the many wild treasures found in the forest that were affected by the gypsy moth invasion. 

The third, a familiar face to us all, is Smokey Bear.  The Forest Service mascot’s mission, to prevent forest fires, has been the longest running public service announcement, and one of the most widely recognized educational, campaigns in the history of the nation.

As outdoor enthusiasts, we all need to remember that while it may not be Smokey’s main objective, invasive species can be just as harmful and deadly to an ecosystem as a forest fire.

Stop the spread of invasive species and always remember to:

  • Use a boot brush to rid your shoes of any seeds, insects, etc. that might be trying to hitch a ride.  
  • Head to a carwash to clean your tires’ tread or your boats’ bottom before leaving the area.
  • ALWAYS use local firewood.

Go here for more tips and tricks to prevent invasive species from spreading.  If we each play a hand in fighting the invasives, then we, too, will stand tall.    

Katelyn Stutterheim and Blake Jackson


Leave No Trace’s Katelyn Stutterheim and Blake Jackson are part of the 2015 Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Program that provides free, mobile education to communities across the country. Proud partners of this program include Subaru of America, Deuter, Hi-Cone, REI, Smartwool, The North Face, and Yakima.