How To: Leave No Trace

If you are an Apogee alum and/or an avid outdoors person, then you have likely seen and heard the term “Leave No Trace,” or just “LNT.” But what is LNT? And, with a group of 14 explorers, how do we put LNT into practice on our programs? First, we’ll run through the general Leave No Trace ideas and then, we’ll try our hand at a couple of  scenarios!

“Leave No Trace”

If LNT seems like a simple concept, that’s because it is! When we head into the outdoors, we want to leave those places we travel exactly as we found them. In practice, however, there can be some confusion. “LNT” could be “Leave No Trash” or “Let’s Not Trample” but it always boils down to not leaving a trace.


Helpful Tips and Tricks!

Stay on the Trail!

The trail is already a trace, so we want to minimize our impact to the rest of our surroundings. The trail is a great place to walk, as are durable surfaces like rocks! Local flora, which is far more delicate than rocks, is a less ideal place to walk. Some types of plants are resilient and will recover well, but others will not and some species will even take years to recover. If we stay on the trail (even when it’s muddy!), then we support that natural beauty and the health of the ecosystem. 


Build Campfires in Camp!

Only build fires in previously established campfire pits. Campfires leave behind a lot of ash and sometimes partially burnt trash, as well. Plan to take your trash with you, rather than burning it, and restrict your campfires to fire rings! Additionally, pay attention to fire bans! It is not always acceptable to have a fire when camping and accidentally starting a wildfire would certainly leave a large trace!


Pack it in, Pack it Out!

Anything you bring on the trail with you should leave with you, as well. This includes any trash, broken gear, etc. In some cases, this may even include human waste! Check with the local regulations to determine whether this applies to your adventure. Bring a trash receptacle and have a plan! 

Be Considerate of Others!

This applies to both people and wildlife. We want to be considerate of other folks in the outdoors so they can have just as excellent of an experience as we did! We want to extend this same courtesy to our local wildlife. Observe wildlife from a distance and be respectful – we’re in their home! Sometimes, this can even be a safety concern. Getting too close to a moose or a bear can put you in danger and we want to avoid that, if at all possible. 


Putting these Principles into Practice


Apogee in the Wild

Back in 2012, (crazy to believe that’s a decade ago!) current Associate Director Jack was a bright-eyed first year Trip Leader. Jack was with his Maine’s Downeast Explorer Apogee students in the backcountry of Baxter State Park when they began a conversation about food waste. The students were originally opposed to the idea of eating their apple cores, but Young Jack proposed a wager. If the students finished every one of their apple cores while in the backcountry, Jack would shave his facial hair into whatever design they chose. 

Did it work?

It did! Unfortunately, we don’t have a picture of the undoubtedly spectacular facial hair, but we do have a picture of that 2012 Maine’s Downeast Explorer group!

Hiking in Alaska

While leading a hike in Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska, one of our current Assistant Directors, Andi, came upon a man on the trail who was cutting a branch off of a tree to use as a walking stick. LNT does not mean “Leave No Trees,” contrary to what this gentleman may have thought! 

What’s the alternative?

The LNT approach to this situation is to choose a walking stick from the branches that have already fallen off of trees! Then, at the end of the hike, leave the walking stick back among the forest!

As we head into another summer season, we hope you are all a little better prepared to head into the wilderness. We know our Apogee Trip Leaders are excited to put their LNT principles into practice! Whether you are walking, biking, or rafting, get out there and enjoy nature! Just try and leave it the way you found it!