Seven of the most annoying behaviors on the trail

We love and revere the outdoors. It’s the place where we play, relax, recharge and find some peace. Usually, it’s a combination of all of those things, and a good escape from that which annoys us in our non-outdoors world.

But all too often, those annoyances follow us to our outdoor happy places. Getting outside is becoming more popular, and it would seem the newbies sometimes don’t know the rules, or like to transfer, shall we say, certain behaviors from the ‘burbs to the backcountry.

So let’s take a look at our top outdoor annoyances…

An embarrassing collection of summit signs.

An embarrassing collection of summit signs, thankfully hauled out by this guy (Ben Perry photo/14ers.com Facebook page).

Summit signs being left behind. It’s cool to bag peaks, especially the high ones, the tough ones, or even your first ones. A lot of folks will bring a piece of paper or cardboard with the name of the peak, its elevation and the date it was climbed and use it to pose for a summit victory photo. No problems so far, unless these people┬ádecide to leave their┬ásigns behind. This is littering, and a serious sin in the backcountry. Even if you’re leaving it for someone else to make their own bragging-rights shot, it’s still wrong. Bring that sign, make that photograph, slap it on Facebook. But don’t you dare leave it there. Pack that thing out.

Whether it's chalk art or something more permanent, this grates on me. Leave the rocks alone.

Whether it’s chalk art or something more permanent, this grates on me. Leave the rocks alone.

Defacing rocks. I really hate this one. I see this too often where I run trails, and I’ve seen plenty of photos of people making their own “art” on ancient rocks, or writing messages on stones. This can even be combined with the summit sign thing, where people will write, with a Sharpie, the name of the peak and its elevation, then pose for a photograph. Whether you’re this douche, or Casey Nocket (the Creepytings “artist”) or just some fool tagging rocks, please stop. No one wants to see your markings, even if it’s in chalk. Plus, defacing rocks is actually a crime.

That bear selfie might get you hundreds of likes in Instagram, but is it worth it?

That bear selfie might get you hundreds of likes on Instagram, but is it worth it?

Wildlife selfies. Talk about needless risks. I’ve come to grips with the fact that people are addicted to selfies of all sorts, and even carry selfie sticks for the purpose of making those epic self portraits more epic-er. Gag, but I get it. But next-level gag — the wildlife selfie — is dangerous. People who spot bears, buffalo, moose or other creatures of the woods have gone out of their way to get close, turn their back to the animal, then grin for their camera, only to get attacked by the creature. In two cases in California, a couple of guys took selfies with rattlesnakes. Both got bit, and were lucky to live. But they also got tagged with six-figure medical bills. Keep your distance, respect wildlife, and don’t take your eye off a wild creature until you’re a safe distance away.

Funny in a text. Not funny if you step in it on the trail.

Funny in a text. Not funny if you step in it on the trail.

Defecating/urinating on the route. I’m not sure this needs to be said, but since it happens, well, don’t take a crap on the trail. Don’t pee on a climbing route. Don’t leave your waste where other people are hiking or seeking handholds and footholds.

One day, 150 people, and this is what those people collected in trash on a recent trail cleanup day.

One day, 150 people, and this is part what those people collected in trash on a recent trail cleanup day.

Littering in general. You might not think your lone water bottle, soda cup or candy bar wrapper will make much difference. But it does, especially if enough of you knuckleheads feel the same way. It’s not nearly as bad in the deep backcountry, but in places closer to highways or otherwise easily accessible it’s a massive problem. In a few trail cleanup days, I’ve personally carried out a good 100 pounds of trash. And that’s just me. Yet I still see discarded water bottles, cups and other bits of garbage. Oh, and wildlife sometimes try to eat your junk, which can cause illness and even death. If you can hold on to that drink on the way in, you can carry it out.

Not really my thing, but if you're going to have music on the trail, confine it to your earbuds.

Not really my thing, but if you’re going to have music on the trail, confine it to your earbuds.

Music on the trail. It’s OK to jam to your favorite tunes in the trail. Runners and hikers do it all the time. It’s not really my thing — I’d rather hear the sounds of the woods. But I don’t fault people wanting to hear their playlists or podcasts. But here’s the thing — no one else wants to hear it. So keep the music flowing… through your earbuds. When I’m trying to bag a peak or run some miles, I don’t want to hear you Whip and Nae Nae.

Too. Many. Cairns. (downeast.com photo)

Too. Many. Cairns. (downeast.com photo)

Excessive cairn-building. Building cairns has been a practice that dates back centuries, usually to mark territory or places of significance. In more recent times, cairns are used to show people what direction a route is going. But people like stacking rocks. Rock-stacking has become sort of hipster cool, like quadruple IPAs, fancy lattes or vinyl records. That’s fine and all, but it’s getting out of hand in some places (and I’m not the only one who thinks so). A beautiful lakeshore can be riddled with people’s rock “art,” spoiling an otherwise notable view. Worse yet, a random cairn made for your enjoyment might confuse a hiker and send him or her the wrong way. This is a serious issue in the backcountry. So come on, people. Let’s give the optional cairn thing a rest.

Those are a few of mine. How about you? Feel free to share your gripes and groans in the comments.

NOTE: A couple of readers noted that a “bear selfie” image was actually a digitally altered photo. It’s been replaced with an actual “bear selfie” image. Thanks for the heads up!

Bob Doucette

Bros behaving badly: Hitting golf balls from the summit and 5 other things you shouldn’t do in the wilderness

Dudes hitting golf balls off the summit of Grays Peak, Colo. Not cool. (14ers.com Facebook page photo)

Dudes hitting golf balls off the summit of Grays Peak, Colo. Not cool. (14ers.com Facebook page photo)

The photo above is something that caused a bit of a stir in the mountain community in Colorado. You can see what it shows: A group of guys on the summit of Grays Peak, hitting golf balls from the top.

Grays Peak is one of those heavily trafficked mountains that’s close to Denver, with easy access from Interstate 70. It’s also a straightforward hike to the top, so as you can imagine it attracts a lot of attention from people looking for an altitude fix. Much moreso than, say, the more demanding peaks deeper in the mountains.

I’ve got a problem with this. For starters, you don’t know if your tee shot if going to hit someone below (there is more than one trail to the top of Grays). But the real sin is that I’m sure these douchenozzles made no effort to retrieve their golf balls. Like I said, Grays Peak is a busy place in the summer. But guess what? It’s also a wild place. To whatever degree you follow Leave No Trace principles, I think we can all agree that what happened here was nothing more than frat boy littering.

(Disclosure: I didn’t take this picture.)

It got me to thinking of some other things noobs need to refrain from when out in wilderness areas…

1. Don’t crap or piss on the trail or on a route. Trust me, you can hold it long enough to get well off trail, even in above-treeline areas. No one wants to step on your defecation or grab a wet handhold courtesy of your bowels.

2. Don’t feed the wildlife. And don’t mess with wildlife, either. Yes, a marmot will eat out of your hand. So will the occasional pika. But animals should not be conditioned to see humans as food sources. Besides, the food we eat is not healthy for them. And for cryin’ out loud, don’t be an idiot by chasing wildlife around, or otherwise doing harm. Some dude kicked a squirrel off the Grand Canyon rim last week, an action I cannot fathom.

3. Take your dog, but take care of your dog. Keep your pooch under control (especially around people, other dogs and wildlife), don’t let it crap on the route/trail (and clean up after it if it does), and be cognizant of your dog’s abilities and stamina. Most dogs can’t handle rough, bouldery routes, and almost none can manage Class 3 climbing and up. Feed, water and monitor your dog. Don’t get your pet injured or killed.

4. Haul out your trash. Period. Don’t leave it, bury it, throw it in a creek or lake or burn it. Just bring a plastic sack and haul out your garbage. I’m stunned by how few people get this, especially when it comes to things like food wrappers and summit signs.

5. Have a good time, but make sure your party doesn’t ruin other people’s day. I’ve seen and heard of some wild stunts people do in the mountains, all in the name of fun. I’m all for that. Hot tub on a peak? Sure. Kegger on the summit? It happens. Grill a burger, have a sing-along, pitch a tent — all of these things and more happen on high mountain summits, and it’s cool as long as you don’t ruin the moment for everyone else. Be cool about it, be done with it, and then leave that peak in as good or better condition than when you found it. Have fun, but be mindful of others.

And for that matter, don’t hit golf balls off a summit. Be better than that.

Got a few don’ts of your own? List ’em in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.

Bob Doucette