We Need To Have A Talk

text and photography by Ryan Stikeleather

It's Not OCD...

I’m a bit of a neat-freak. The car, house, computer keyboard…they’re always clean. You’ve probably seen a few of us in your lifetime—we’re easy to spot. When I was a kid, I would lovingly clean my sneakers after each outing…with a toothbrush, and not always my toothbrush (sorry to any family members who might just be learning this). The point being, my stuff looked good! I took care of my belongings, they meant something to me. I’m still the same way, maybe not as over-the-top, but I like to keep my things in their original condition.

I Feel The Need, The Need For Clean

I have the same approach to nature, not that I sweep the trail as I go, but If I am hiking or camping, everything I bring with me, goes back out. Pack It In, Pack It Out. It’s a simple concept and one that’s being ignored far too often. I briefly mentioned this in my Lone Eagle Peak post. I have no idea why someone would make the effort to hike/backpack into such a fascinating and gorgeous location, only to leave their trash behind. I want to feel removed from civilization on my hikes…not like I’ve taken up a second job as a trash collector.

Practice What You Preach

The concept of Leave No Trace has been around for a long time, and it really just boils down to being considerate of others and the environment we share. If you aren’t familiar with the principles, check out this list:

The Leave No Trace Seven Principles

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Easy stuff if you ask me. But, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t all-talk-and-no-action, so I took the Online Awareness Course. I’m proud to say, that I passed the test and am now certified! It feels good to show off this certificate. Unfortunately, not everyone feels the same about their impact on the environment—or even other people.

An example of bad behavior comes from my cherished Rocky Mountain National Park. The park has exploded in popularity in recent years (#3 total visitors and rising) and this has prompted the park to release an open letter, just to remind people not to be jerks. In the aptly titled “Please Help Your Friends Behave Better To Protect Rocky Mountain National Park”, several issues are brought up: staying on designated trails, parking lot rage, don't approach wild animals. I’ve encountered all of this, and more, while visiting the park recently and in the past. People like, Casey Nocket, who vandalized the park and then posted pictures of it to Instagram...as if it's a joke. She was sentenced this year. Common sense shouldn't be a "maybe" in the "should-I-use-it" category.

I’m not trying to be a cantankerous old man yelling at neighborhood kids to “stay-off-my-lawn”. I just want everyone to see the parks, forests and open spaces we visit as a privilege and not a right—something we all need to take care of. Respect for the environment needs to be natural (pun intended) and taught through example.

I want to be that example…so let me know if my sneakers are getting dirty.