Keeping our Bodies and Environment in check – Thoughts from an Outdoor Enthusiast
This past summer has been a hectic few months: lots of new adventures and friends, and ensuing good times! As an avid hiker who’s hiked (and organized hikes) every single week of this year so far, I’ve experienced a lot of highs and lows that I’d like to share with you in the hopes of creating a more knowledgeable (and prepared) outdoors community.
I’ve been voluntarily organizing and leading hikes in Vancouver for over a decade now, with the goal of creating a meaningful community. The advent of numerous outdoor clubs and tour companies like Nature PhotoHikes is a welcome sign that people – both local as well as travelers – are keen on the outdoors. And yes, that interest predates the current Pokeman Go craze – we don’t need a game to convince us to go out and enjoy nature. I’d rather capture photos and memories than digital creatures! That being said, yes, more people are heading outdoors and that’s always a great thing. That’s why being mindful while outdoors is even more crucial now.
One of the bigger problems I’ve noticed this summer is how we treat the environment. I’ve never noticed so much trash as I did this time around – the garbage bins at trail heads overflowing even before the day’s half-done. I know these parks have trash cans but remember you’re inside a park so please avoid bringing junk in the first place. For example, why are people still buying plastic water bottles in 2016?! They’re the worst pollutant around. And I could scream every time I see hordes of people holding Starbucks cups while hiking!? And you know they all end up in the bottom of a cliff somewhere. Remember folks, we need to pack out whatever we packed in to the hike with us, especially garbage!
Another issue is the threat to our animal friends. Forever reaching to get that perfect selfie with our winged and furry friends by illegally feeding them, we’re destroying their natural habit to hunt and gather. This not only threatens the animals, but by luring them to our campsites and trails we risk getting attacked by the more dangerous ones – the bears, wolves and cougars. Unfortunately I’ve seen a rising number of culling by rangers for ‘the safety’ of us humans, both in BC and Alberta.
Finally, the lack of preparedness by some hikers has resulted in increased search and rescue missions, even fatalities. People are tackling difficult and long hikes without water, wearing sneakers (even dress shoes!), improper clothing (jeans and lack of layering are the top of the list of misdemeanors), not carrying the 10 essentials, underestimating difficulty and duration (lack of headlamps while hiking near sunset time), not eating/stretching enough before and after the hike, etc. I’ve witnessed newbie hikers go on a difficult hike like Garibaldi Lake with an apple for breakfast and carrying a banana for lunch! Lack of proper nutrition doesn’t only starve us, but mentally drains us so we’re not as alert by the time we’re heading down a trail. That puts us physically in danger of tripping and hurting ourselves.
There are many resources to prepare ourselves before we venture into the outdoors. Websites like vancouvertrails.com provide great details like difficulty, duration, elevation gain, etc as well as pointers from other hikers. It’s a great idea to join an outdoors club which usually has experienced guides and a supportive and knowledgeable hiking community. Even if one ventures out with a friend or two, be sure to gauge everyone’s skill level. It’s no point trying Wedgemount when the most difficult hike you’ve done is Quarry Rock! You may want to ‘push your boundaries’ but not at the expense of your (and your partners’) lives. But most importantly, you’re there to enjoy yourselves and the nature, not punish yourselves (unless of course you do the Grouse Grind!)
With the rising number of visitors to our hiking trails (and 2017 offering free passes to Canada’s national parks), we’ll definitely see more people enjoying the outdoors. So please be sure to take care of your bodies and environment, and have fun while doing it!