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Apr 11, 2014

Charleston, South Carolina - Stories from the Road: Roland and I have been traveling with Leave No Trace for 18 months. We have been to the East Coast, to the West Coast and to the East Coast again. We have driven over 35,000 miles, been through 35 different states and have slept over 300 nights in a tent. It’s hard to recall all the individual campgrounds, parks, forests, and mountain areas we have called home for the night. It’s a lot – that’s all I know!

We’ve seen various lakes, rivers, oceans, trees, plants and wildflowers; the names of which are too great to list. We’ve spotted, seen or been visited by ravens, turtles, snakes, bees, owls, mosquitos, skunks, eagles, fox, butterflies, bears, ants, hummingbirds, lizards, hawks, possums, cardinals, frogs, spiders, armadillos, beetles, blue jays, mice, hogs, alligators, and squirrels – to name a few wild creatures.

In all the places we’ve been and all the wild things we’ve seen, we have never been able to find fireflies! Fireflies or Lightning Bugs are enchanting and mysterious little insects. What makes these insects so endearing? The fascination is in their luminescent bodies that glow in the night. Fireflies have dedicated light organs that are located under their abdomens. The insects take in oxygen and, inside special cells, combine it with a substance called Luciferin to produce a “cold” light.


Firefly lights are the most efficient lights in the world - 100% of the energy is emitted as light. Compare that to an incandescent bulb, which emits 10% of its energy as light and the rest as heat, or a fluorescent bulb, which emits 90% of its energy as light. Firefly light is usually intermittent, and flashes in patterns that are unique to each species.

Fireflies emit light mostly to attract mates, although they also communicate for other reasons as well, such as to defend territory and warn predators away. Despite their, name, fireflies are not flies at all; they are nocturnal winged beetles. They don`t bite, they have no pincers, they do not attack, they are not poisonous, and their visual display is absolutely beautiful. They are the gentlest insects known.

Everyone can picture this scene: A large, open grassy meadow. The sun is setting in the distance, casting a beautiful dim light across the field. The air is warm and a slight breeze moves through the sky, making the grass dance as it passes by. There are kids skipping freely in the meadow, holding glass jars in their out stretched hands. If you look closely, you will notice a small flicker of light sailing above the grass. As you keep watching, you see a multitude of little lights appear, as if out of nowhere. The lightning bugs have come out to play! And the children are doing their best to capture the glowing insects inside their glass jars. After some time and effort, the jars are full of tiny flickering fireflies and the kids are laughing with joy as the sun disappears from the sky. They let their jars empty as an orchestra of light explodes back into the night sky…

That is the scene we are in search of! We want to recreate this magical childhood past time. We want to frolic in a meadow awestruck by the glowing butts of lightning bugs!

There are certain factors needed to see a firefly:

  1. Fireflies come out in the summertime and live in various habitats. Many species thrive in forests, fields, or the margins between them.
  2. Most firefly species have one thing in common: standing water. They live near ponds, streams, marshes, rivers and lakes, but they don't need a lot of water to get by. 
  3. Fireflies love long grass in humid, warm environments.

Our circumstances in comparison:

  1. Spring has arrived and summer is right around the corner! We camp in forests and fields every night.
  2. The campgrounds we stay at are almost always near rivers and lakes where long grasses grow.
  3. We are currently traveling in the Southeast, where it is warm and humid.

The necessary factors are lining up perfectly for us! We will keep our eyes peeled and our fingers crossed. Our lightning bug experience is coming soon – I just know it!


Ninjas for Nature – Dani & Roland

Leave No Trace’s Dani and Roland Mott are part of the 2014 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, Coleman, Hi-Cone, The North Face, REI, Smartwool and Yakima. 


Apr 09, 2014

For the past month the Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainers, Pat and TJ, have been spending time in Southern California. They worked with school groups, land management agencies, and scout groups about how they can minimize their impact on the outdoor areas they recreate at, especially beaches.

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A popular tourist destination is Zuma beach, near Malibu, California, receives over 80,000 visitors a year to one stretch of beach. With so many people spending time along the coastlines impacts will happen. Trash of all types is either washed up or discarded by people along beaches. With clean up efforts and more education hopefully the amount of trash can be minimized along our coastlines.

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Below is the amount of trash collected by the Ocean Conservancy , which conducts clean ups all around the world and counts the amount of trash they pick up.  These items are what they collected in a year through their different stewardship projects.

1.     2,117,931      Cigarette/ Cigarette Filters

2.     1,140,222      Food Wrappers/ Containers

3.     1,065,171      Beverage Bottles (Plastic)

4.     1,019,902      Bags (Plastic)

5.     958,893         Caps, Lids

6.     692,767         Cups, Plates, Forks, Knives, And Spoons

7.     611,048         Straws And Stirrers

8.     521,730         Beverage Bottles (Glass)

9.     339,875         Beverage Cans

10. 298,332         Bags (Paper)

These numbers are just a small sample of what is actually out there that has not been cleaned up. You can find out more about this chart at this link.

These are shocking numbers, especially when you consider how many beaches were not part of their clean up efforts. Thanks to the Ocean Conservancy for keeping our beaches clean and for recording these numbers for people awareness.

Thanks for reading and remember to be like Bigfoot and Leave No Trace.

Pat and TJ


Leave No Trace’s Patrick and Theresa Beezley are part of the 2014 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, Coleman, Hi-Cone, The North Face, REI, Smartwool and Yakima.


Apr 04, 2014

The island had yet to be discovered by the boy. Others had seen it, of course, even built a structure on its green grass giving it its namesake. Though none of this matters – for discovery is a deeply personal experience. Discovery lies in the eyes, the heart, and the mind of only the one searching - regardless of those who have been there before or those who will come after. 

It was by accident the boy had found the island – if you are one who believes in accidents that is. A stroll led by curiosity only gave way to more curiosity, which inevitably led to more strolling. The woods thickened before opening into a wide lane; a lane through which a river ran – or I should say walked - lazily. The water was a deep green through which you could not entirely see. The banks were generously covered with tall green reed grass that sprouted large yellow flowers from their tops. The yellow held a delicate contrast against the flood of green. Green water, green grass, green trees, green plants – green. As he strolled, he watched green turtles basking in the sun on logs floating along the calm water. They slipped quickly into the water once they became aware of the boys presence, disappearing only to resurface a few feet from the still resonating rings spreading across the rivers once smooth veneer; their small legs visibly paddling as they effortlessly floated. The boy followed the river for a great while, the tall trees on each side creating a tunnel topped by blue sky. The floor covered by last fall’s leaves – a copper brown lending themselves to a satisfying crunch with each step the boy took. A sudden rustling of leaves not caused by the boy, invited him to find the source; the source being a five and a half foot canebrake rattlesnake. The boy knew not to bother this creature, but observing seemed appropriate so long as the snake agreed. With its head in the air the snake joined the boy in his curiosity, each just as curious as the other. The boy watched quietly as the snake, much thicker than even the boy’s leg, slid gracefully across the path and disappeared again into the litter of fallen foliage.


The river continued on and did something odd – something that led the boy to question if it was a river at all. Though this question lept from the boys mind just as quickly as it had found its way in. The boy was not aware of where the river began as he stumbled upon it earlier. The river curved its way around creating an oxbow, but at the end of its oxbow it simply flowed back into itself creating a closed loop. A small wooden bridge crossed the river where it joined with itself leading to a small island – sitting comfortably within the confines of the river’s loop. An island! An island indeed thought the boy. The island was of modest size (200 ft. long by 100 ft. wide). Maple, sweet gum, and oak trees lined the island’s banks. At the far end of the island sat quietly but confidently a small and simple A-frame structure open on both ends, as the steep sides of the roof came to meet the ground. Inside the structure was one sturdily built pulpit and one wooden bench. The boy, in awe of the simple beauty the island held, thought to himself, “ Who built that chapel?” and “Who built this bridge?” He sat on the island’s green grass and created stories in his mind – stories that explained these wonderings of his. Movies of possibilities played out in his head full of passion, drama, heartbreak, and joy. After a time he took off his backpack, for he always carried a backpack with him on any adventure he took. As he dumped the packs contents on the ground (water, hammock, book, and magnifying glass) he set up his hammock between an oak and a sweet gum tree that sat along the rivers edge. With his book spread out across his chest, lying in his hammock he looked up at the sunlight filtering through the oaks canopy of spring’s new life. Beams of light danced through the green ceiling as the leaves danced themselves in the breeze. The boy took a long deep breath and comfortably fell asleep in the arms of Chapel Island. 

Ninjas for Nature – Roland & Dani

Leave No Trace’s Dani and Roland Mott are part of the 2014 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, Coleman, Hi-Cone, The North Face, REI, Smartwool and Yakima. 

Apr 04, 2014

Deputy Director, Susan Alkaitis asks What is Your Outdoor Ethic?

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