Leave No Trace program helps keep wilderness pristine

Trail rides training


Zorina Barker photo

Larry Baysinger hitches up a mule named Socks with the help of Olympic National Park Staff Packer Claire Donato, who is holding the lead rope near the Olympic National Park’s mule pen at the Elwha River station.


Mules. Who can’t love the sight of the long-eared hybrids? Some people around here make their living from the use of mules, and they might not always be smiling at them, but they certainly appreciate them. 

Larry Baysinger is one of those people. He uses mules to pack in the Olympic National Park, taking supplies to work and research crews. 

On Saturday, April 14 he was invited by the national park to be part of a day of packing demonstrations and discussions held at the Elwha Mule Barn. As a Master Trainer of the Leave No Trace Outdoor Ethics Program, and a permitted guide, he was asked to share information on what he has learned and been taught.

“When I started to pack in the Olympics, you could tell where everyone was camping with stock by all of the snags,” he said. 

This was because people had been tying their horses directly to trees for so long, the trees had become damaged and girdled and subsequently died. 

In 2000, he was invited to go to the National Forest Service’s Nine Mile Training Facility located in Montana, where he was changed forever by the outdoor ethics taught there. 

Leave No Trace is the name that replaced the Tread Lightly campaign started by the Forest Service and adopted by all federal agencies as the basic program for education in how to handle yourself, your stuff, and your animals in the wilderness. 

Leave No Trace (now being changed into a program named Minimum Impact) is based upon seven principles that govern all who venture into the great outdoors (see side bar). It is a “program designed to assist outdoor enthusiasts with their decisions about how to reduce their impacts when they “hike, camp, picnic, snowshoe, run, bike, hunt, paddle, ride horses, fish, ski, or climb” as described on the  program’s official website, at www.lnt.org. 

We all know about our impact and footprints beginning to be quite a big deal in the world scene. Yes, some of us have been raised to throw all of our trash into the campfire, but this is no longer acceptable behavior according to the time in which we live. 

It is hard to understand sometimes what all of the fuss is about. We live in a lush area that generally recovers and covers our impact well. 

If you have ever been in the higher elevations, however, you’ll know this is not the case everywhere. For example, in Yellowstone National Park, there is a huge volume of tourist activity that does not assist the natural environment recover from fairly recent fire damage. Consequently, the rangers there have begun to be very strict about upholding the ethical use of the wilderness, to the point of writing tickets for things we would not even give a second thought to doing around here. For example, at Yellowstone highlines for horses MUST be outside the drip-lines of trees and moved every two hours. As Larry puts it, “we can be glad for the latitude we do have”. 

But the crowds are increasing and our awareness needs to as well. The crowds bring along with them a variety to the uses our outdoor areas get. In fact, user conflict is a growing concern for all land managers as bikes share trails with horses, who share trails with dogs, who share trails with hunters, who share trails with kayaks being packed upriver, who share the trails with llamas. The need for courtesy is becoming greater or entire groups will be forced out of accessible areas. Nobody wants that.

Given the current situation, those knowledgable of the Leave No Trace program are reaching out to educate everybody and anybody.

Individually, anybody can go to the website and learn a lot of new information. 

The Leave No Trace mascot is Bigfoot and the “Bigfoot Challenge” is a current campaign based on the evidence that Bigfoot has “not” been leaving behind for decades.

Groups here in the Forks area are invited to contact Baysinger at 327-3611 for information on  Leave No Trace educational programs and training. Scouts, hiking clubs, schools, fishing/hunting organizations, biking groups are all invited to add some new tools to their outdoor skill set.

When you are in the back country, one of the delightful things to take in is the untouched feeling you get in and among the trees and waterways. This is no accident. Do you really think you are the first person to have ever been there? Could it be that someone was there before you? Possibly with a string of mules, Larry spent the night there. But you do not even know it because he is a careful and respectful user of our precious forest. We can all Leave No Trace.