As a Naturalist, I do multiple Leave No Trace (LNT) talks every week. We stand at trailheads and talk to people going out into the wilderness about the Sawtooth Wilderness regulations and how to best respect the wilderness. Having talked about LNT so often, I have come to have my own opinion on which could be considered “the most important principle”: Plan Ahead and Prepare.
One of the most important things to do before your trip is to know where you are going. The terrain, the weather conditions, and any hazards such as fires in the area can change how you plan for your trip. If you do not know where you are going, you could potentially run into dangers that could have been avoided. It is also best practice to let someone know where you are planning to go in case you need to be found.
Another part of the “Plan Ahead and Prepare” principle is knowing the rules and regulations of the area you are visiting. Sawtooth Wilderness regulations include getting a permit from a Forest Service office if you have between 8-12 people in your group, no more than 12 people in your group, having your dog on a leash from July 1- Labor Day, and occasionally special restrictions about where and when you can have fires.
One of the most important aspects of planning ahead and preparing in terms of personal safety is knowing what the weather is going to be during the time of your visit, knowing trail conditions, and being properly dressed for the conditions. Knowing what your trail is like and wearing appropriate clothing can help you be more comfortable on your hike and keep you safe as well.
It is important to be aware of all of these regulations before you go into the wilderness. Reading signage at the trailhead and reading the back of your wilderness permit can help you be aware of the rules and regulations. Although they may seem inconvenient at the time, these rules and regulations keep the wilderness pristine, reduce the negative impacts of humans on animals and plants, and reduce the amount of pollution that is being left in the wilderness. If these regulations were not in place, we would eventually have no wilderness left.
So, next time you are planning on heading into the wilderness, please Plan Ahead and Prepare. It will keep you safe in the wilderness, keep the wilderness wild, and keep you comfortable on your trip.