Monday, October 4, 2010

Welcome the Newest Member of the LNT Training Force: Me

This past weekend I got to spend learning more than I ever could have in books about Leave No Trace outdoor ethics. It was a truly wonderful, but COLD, experience and one I'm so glad I decided to be a part of.

The instructors, both LNT Master Educators, were incredibly well versed and experienced at both teaching and spreading LNT principals and, even better, at practicing them when out in the backcountry across the country. As for the participants, I was so pleased to be surrounded by people with such similar values and experiences as I have. I almost felt out of place surrounded by such people as a woman who had thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail and part of the Pacific Coast Trail, a man who had been a seasonal Ranger and Forest Fireman at Crater Lake, and another young woman who had hiked signifigant trails and parks in almost every state in the US and many other countries, including Hawaii, Alaska, Jamaica, and various South American countries. Suddenly my trip to Yellowstone and the meager day hikes I do locally with my kids didn't seem like the proud accomplishments I had thought they were. But, there was also a woman who hiked and camped with her son's Boy Scout troop but had never backpacked, and none of the more worldly experienced hikers looked down on us less active ones at all, so the varied company and experiences really was excellent.

Student led session to start off the class, covering pricipal #1: Plan Ahead (pretty much like the Boy scout motto "Be Prepared")

As for the 'train the trainer' part, I learned so many new ways to approach not only teaching people and kids in a formal setting like a camp station, but also how to gently spread the ideas and ethics to strangers we might find on the trail doing somthing less than acceptable. Since each portion of the class was student-led, we got to experience many different teaching styles and audience types, which I found especially useful to take back to the diverse world of Scouting. The books and resources we recieved to take with us were very well written and something I feel I will actually use, not file away to never be read or brought out again. Seeing many of the activities played out in real life was also invaluable, especially for some activities where we weren't always sure what the lesson was really supposed to be. And to think, I was leery of going since I'm not currently an avid back-country camper and wasn't sure I'd learn anything I could take back to my Cub Scouts. My only regret was not bringing long underwear - it was quite a bit colder than any of us really anticipated!

The weekend was incredible for other reasons too. I arrived in Shenandoah National Park early on Friday to go for a hike on my own. I decided on the Lewis Falls Trail, but I got a little frightened before I started the hike and ended up leaving this note in my car (I blurred out the numbers here, but of course they were there for my hike!). I guess the stories about missing and sometimes dying hikers, especially the recent one about Ed Rosenthal in Joshua Tree (which thankfully had a happy ending) got me really worried about the fact that no one would find me if something went wrong. Perhaps it was a little silly, but without cell service I'd rather be accused of being silly than being found dead 10 days later, or maybe never, becuase no one knew where to look for me when I went missing. With that piece of mind, I had a wonderful hike with peace and quiet like I hadn't experienced in a very long time. The cool air and recent rain and leaves just starting to turn their various shades of yellow and red made for a perfect start to my weekend of nature appreciation and conservation.

I'm almost ashamed to admit how many years it has been since I'd been to Shenandoah national Park, even though it just over 2 hours away. Going back was almost like experiencing the beauty of our gentel rolling mountains for the first time, except that I had an incredible sence of coming home again. I'm already planning my next trip up there, which unfortunately will have to wait until next year. Perhaps I'll get lucky and be able to get into the Master Educator class that will probably be held there next spring. Because I certainly will be continuing on my LNT education and taking the next step in spreading the message to more people, Scouts and general public, here in the Richmond, VA area. Even though we were told we're not actually "certified" because the word certification implies some amount of backing from the LNT center, I was still proud to get the pin stating that I am an official un-official LNT trainer and look forward to getting the non-certified certificate in the mail.

But even so, if anyone has need of someone to teach how to tell a durable surface for walking and camping, how to best hang a bear bag, how to 'take care of business' in the backcountry, how much weight a backpacker should carry, why your dog should be kept on a leash, what colors to wear when hiking, how to dispose of wash water and anything else that might be ethically questionable in the wilderness, just give me a shout. I'm available for Scout camps, den meetings, weddings, birthday parties, Pow-Wows, training seminars and bat mitzvahs. Looking forward to spreading the word of using natural places responsibly and LNT at your next meeting or marriage celebration! ;)


  1. Shall we get out your hiking stick and mark the miles for your Lewis Falls trip?

  2. In relation to your worries about being lost. I would consider buying the SPOT transponder (about $150 + yearly service). It will alert family or even police and rescue if you send a signal. It works via satellite and therefore will work when cellphones don't.

    I used it when I had chest pains on a backcountry hike. It worked. You can check it out online. by searching SPOT.


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