With the weather finally warming up, Saskatchewan residents are spending more time outside this summer to get a breath of fresh air away from the city. But with so many people on the trails, it’s important that they remain in good shape. We are reminded that trail etiquette involves safe and courteous interaction with other travelers, but also includes proper care of the paths and nature.
Responsible outdoor recreation is outlined in the following sections. Feel free to review this guide or even print it out before your trip and carry it with you:
1. Research and Plan Ahead
Adequate trip planning and preparation helps hikers travel safely and have fun, while simultaneously minimizing damage to the land. When planning a trip, destinations and activities should be chosen based on the expectations, skills, and abilities of participants. Doing a bit of research beforehand is also advantageous as reviewing maps, considering the weather, and knowing the regulations of an area can help prevent awkward or even dangerous situations on the trails.
2. Bring the Essentials
Hikers should bring equipment and clothing for comfort and safety. A hat, sunscreen, and insect repellent along with proper footwear and suitable clothing for the weather are a must when traveling. Food and water along with bags for storing trash should also be brought to keep you fueled during the hike. For longer journeys, survival kits and first aid kits should be carried along with a whistle. When cycling or trail riding, a helmet, and other protective equipment should be worn properly.
3. Travel Properly
Many of us have veered off the trail to dodge mud puddles and incoming traffic. The action seems harmless at the time but places the quality of our outdoor experiences and the recreational resources we enjoy at risk. Always be alert and watch out for poisonous plants, wildlife, and falling rocks. Trail use is recommended whenever possible, and it is important to learn the rules of the ‘road’. Firstly, walk, ride or cycle in single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy unless passing on the left. Secondly, individuals climbing up a hill have the right of way if you are climbing down. Thirdly, it is important to remember that bike riders yield to hikers and horseback riders; hikers yield to horseback riders. Lastly, even without COVID distancing measures in place, try to keep space between yourself and other hikers on the trail.
4. Environmental Stewardship
“Take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints”, it is essential that we take all our trash back with us when returning home from the trails; do not assume that anything is biodegradable. It is equally important to protect the environment by not disturbing it: Leave wood, rocks, flowers, and other natural resources on the trail so others can enjoy them and avoid making loud noises. Along with not disturbing plants or wildlife, removal of archaeological artifacts, dead wood, fossils, or other geological features is not permitted and is even considered illegal under certain jurisdictions. Additional rules govern the construction of campsites. Do not build structures, fire rings, furniture, or dig trenches, and fires are not allowed on the trails except in campsites that approve it. Additionally, make sure your campsite is at least 60 meters away from water sources and bury human waste at least 100 meters away.
5. Travelling with Children or Pets
Children enjoy the trails just as adults do. To ensure their safety, dress children in bright colors for easier locating and bring backpack carriers for longer trips. It is also important to note that disposable diapers should not be buried or otherwise discarded improperly. Though we all love our furry friends’ company, pets are best left at home. If you do bring them, keep them on a leash, away from the water, and bring doggy bags to clean up after them.
After reading this guide, I hope you are more knowledgeable about trail etiquette and will follow the guidelines moving forward. If everyone continues to do their part, the fun will be guaranteed, and Saskatchewan Trails will continue to be available for years to come.