Leaving No Trace

Today an excerpt from my new book, The Hungry Kayaker published by Friesenpress and available through Amazon as well as from Friesenpress. You can find links on my BOOKS tab on the home page.

Keeping it clean!

Simple steps to proving you don’t exist, or leaving little trace that you were ever there.

I remember being a child, growing up on an island. It seems long ago, or was it this morning. No, wait, that was not being a child, that was being childish and I don’t want to delve too deeply into that episode. However, when I was younger I was an enlightened little guy. I suppose living so close to nature and living things of all sizes this affected me to being somewhat of an environmental Zen master by the age of six. I held tightly to a belief that nothing in nature should ever be moved, not one little inch. I would recoil at the thought of shifting even the smallest of pebbles. It was not right. It, the pebble belonged where it lay, and was there for a reason.

It was not as though the pebble in question had been there for an eternity. Change and slow motion movements are the basic ways of the earth, and its coating of nature in the ooze layer in which we all live. By the state of the world we live in, I would toss in the idea that change and slow motion also applies to human behaviour. At six I felt that a ‘live and let live, leave and let be’ approach was best. The one who does not bother a bee will not be stung; one should leave rocks alone to. Though, it seems in my forties I have relaxed the rules a bit and have retired to a less rigid way of coexisting with the natural world. This is real progress for the child-like environmental Zen master. The underlying methods of my youthful madness I still apply to camping in the delicate confines of the rainforest floor, and inter-tidal zones of the west coast. Plants, trees (standing and fallen) and yes, even those pesky pebbles are where they are for a reason. Nature works in wonderfully mysterious ways that we seem obsessed with conquering.

A rock landed where it is due to a glacier snipping off a chunk of coastal mountain twenty-million-years ago give or take five minutes, and depositing it on the beach as the glacier ceased to advance. It should not be disturbed. By now, you are wondering if I, your kayaking guide to a nice weekend of good food and camping under the stars is slightly disturbed. I do move rocks from time to time, but not without the knowledge for the tremendous damage done by doing so. That rock, long ago plopped down, or pushed up from below is now shelter to a minute eco-system. Plants for instance use the rock to grow behind, over and especially under. The rock gathers and provides tiny amounts of water, and rich nutrients to feed its garden. Moving this rock to pitch my tent is a disaster on the scale of a hurricane to those that live in and around a beach rock. I am not so fanatical that I would plant ‘Do not Touch’ signs on each stone I come across, though at the age of six I may well have.

Here are a few steps to consider when perfecting your invisible camping style. First, when you land on the beach stretch your legs by searching for the ideal camping spot. Make sure that it is the least intrusive and will end your stay with minimal impact to the wild plants that are there. Public marine parks, which will be your most likely destination by kayak, offer good places to pitch a tent and often provide raised beds and platforms for that purpose. If you are ‘bushing it’, do take care. You may not think that a day or two of tromping about will do much lasting damage, but it does. Most things revive after we camp, but some do not. You will notice for instance that a well-trafficked area has little or no growth around it. Concentrate your camping in established areas.

When choosing a camp make sure it is fairly level and large enough to accommodate you, your gear and your kayak(s). Choose a spot well above the high tide line and if possible inland from the shore for added shelter. Avoid any potential problems handed out by Mother Nature. Pitch your camp away from steep slopes with loose material, dead trees, and areas with visible fresh evidence of animal tracks.


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