Today’s post was written by Brooke Michell, Kawartha Highlands Signature Site Park Biologist.
“Love for nature is more than hunger for what is always out of reach; It is also an expression of loyalty to the land, the land that gave birth to us and sustains us, the only paradise we will ever know, the only paradise we will ever need.” -Edward Abbey
Some of our most precious moments occur out of the ordinary. Inside Ontario’s parks, the avid hiker, canoeist, fisherman and outdoorsman seeks solitude. Although anyone who has camped in the backcountry knows that it’s not always a walk in the park.
Physical limits are often pushed when hauling across rugged terrain and paddling across windswept bodies of water. At this cost, Why is backcountry camping one of our most beloved pastimes?
A frequenter of the countryside will explain that even the worst neck pain inflicted by the yoke of a canoe is magically erased by the warbling harmony of the chorus of a common loon. Or maybe for them it’s the sight of a lovestruck turtle sunbathing, or a shoreline adorned with green white pine trees in the foreground of a fiery sunset. Perhaps it is the successful search for the impressive brook trout that made the arduous journey worth it.
The answer to this question varies between individuals, however, despite our differences, we all pursue the rewarding feeling that only a pristine landscape can provide.
For this reason, an ecosystem with integrity has immeasurable value. It is our inherent duty to protect the rural landscapes in which we play.
Here’s how we can minimize our ecological impact while camping in the backcountry:
- Know the regulations and special concerns of the park you are visiting.
- Schedule your trip to avoid high usage times
- Travel and camp in small groups.
- Plan your route
- Refrain from using marking paint or marking tape. Navigate using a map and compass instead
Travel and camp on durable surfaces
- Camp only in designated sites. Keep your group to nine people or less.
- Use established trails and campsites, rocks, gravel, dry grass or snow.
- Do not widen trails or cause damage to surrounding areas. Only use existing trails and transportation
- Walk single file in the center of the trail.
- Good campsites are found, not built. No need to modify a site
- Keep camps small. Focus the activity in areas where there is no vegetation.
Dispose of waste properly
- Minimize waste by packaging food in reusable containers
- Pack it in, pack it out! This includes all garbage, food scraps and garbage.
- If an outdoor toilet is not available, dispose of solid human waste in small, dug holes 15 to 20 cm deep at least 70 m from water, campsites and trails. Replace the floor immediately
- To wash yourself or dishes, take water within 70 m of streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Dispose of gray water in a well, not in water; Biodegradable soap requires soil to break down effectively.
- Anglers should dispose of fish remains in fast currents or deep water. Do not leave remains in open areas or on the coast.
leave what you find
- Leave any natural object as you found it. Remember that it is illegal to cut any living vegetation, harass wildlife, or disturb or remove cultural artifacts in a provincial park.
- Be careful about the spread of invasive species; Clean your equipment and outer clothing frequently
- Do not build structures/furniture or dig trenches.
Minimize the impact of the campfire
- Campfires can cause lasting impacts in the countryside. Use a light stove for cooking and a flashlight or lantern for illumination
- Check active fire bans before starting your trip. When fires are allowed, use fire rings, fire trays, or established mound fire pits.
- Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
- Make sure all embers have been reduced to fine ashes and the fire is completely extinguished (ashes should be cool to the touch).
- Observe wildlife from afar and do not disturb them. Be especially careful with your distance during sensitive times such as nesting, mating, raising young, or during winter.
- Do not feed wildlife. Doing so damages their health, disrupts their natural behaviors, and can expose them to predators.
- Protect wildlife and your food by safely storing rations and trash
- When camping with pets, keep them under your supervision at all times.
Be considerate of others
- Be polite. Give way to other users on the road
- Let the sounds of nature prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.
- Aim on your trip to leave your campsite in better condition than you found it.
- Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
Indoor outdoor recreation in Ontario parks is an important experience for all of us. Many of us would agree that nature is a wealth of information and that nature’s lessons are among the most profound.
By following these seven simple guidelines, we can reduce our impact on protected areas, allowing nature experiences to continue for generations to come.
“We abuse the land because we consider it a commodity that belongs to us. When we see the land as a community to which we belong, we can begin to use it with love and respect.” – Aldo Leopoldo