Friday, March 21, 2014

Reducing impact on a desert environment when hiking

Nightmare Gulch, Red Rock Canyon State Park, California.
With so little rainfall, deserts are a delicate, fragile environment. The limited number of plants and animals residing in them can be deeply affected by even minor changes. Even when day hiking, such small changes are easy to inadvertently make to a desert.

To limit the impact of your hike upon a desert environment, stick to these simple practices:
g Leave what’s natural in its place – Uprooting plants and moving rocks actually disturbs food and shelter sources for desert animals.
g Walk single file – Doing so restricts the impact of your footsteps to a single narrow path. Stepping off a path can dislodge plant roots, compress soil, or shift rocks about.
g Carry out your leftovers – Rather than decompose, food tossed to the ground often will mummify. Since human foods (such as oranges and bananas) usually aren’t native to deserts, seeing a mummified pealing looks out of place. All other garbage, such as wrappers, should be carried out as well.
g Keep noise down – Our shouts carry farther in the open desert and echoes off rock canyon walls, stressing animals and diminishing the experience for other hikers.

Read more about day hiking with children in my Hikes with Tykes guidebooks.