One of my facebook readers left a comment yesterday, questioning why anyone would bury the ash generated by a wood stove (see my Solo Wood Stove Review) when it would naturally dissipate on its own.
Burying my ashes is one of the things I do to practice Leave No Trace Camping. The idea is simple. When you camp at a wild site, try to leave it in the same condition as you found it so the next guy or gal to visit can experience the same level of wildness.
Here’s another example: When I break camp in the morning, I fluff up the compressed leaves and dirt that were under my sleeping pad at night so that they look like the rest of the forest floor. I also scatter the twigs and branches I removed the previous night on top so no one will know I’d slept there.
Why Practice Leave No Trace?
When I see ash piled on the ground, a pile of rocks built up in a funky cairn, a hastily-built and scorched fire ring, or partially burned logs at a camp site, it immediately ruins the feeling of wildness I like to experience when camping in wilderness areas. With a growing population, we can’t expect our wilderness areas to survive if we don’t become more conscious about our impact on them when we visit. And if we don’t do it voluntarily, some government agency will step in, permit the area, and eliminate wild camping in wilderness areas altogether (like they’ve done many places out west.)
Here’s are a few of the other things I do keep a wild campsite as wild as when I found it:
- I collect all my trash, including used matches and tea-bags, and drop them in my bear bag to carry out.
- I bury grey water from washing and feces in a proper cat hole.
- I don’t sleep along stream to avoid harming delicate plants that grow along their banks (200 feet or 80 steps away is best practice).
- I avoid pitching camp on non-durable surfaces like fragile growing plants.
- I avoid walking to and from my water source over moss or other fragile vegetation.
- I don’t remodel a site by creating a fire ring or move rocks and logs to make better seats.
- I don’t break branches off trees for firewood and only use wood that’s already on the ground.
Adopting these practices has made me much more conscious of my potential impact on the wilderness experience of others and the quality of experience I want to enjoy when I camp in a wild area. I can’t make other people practice them, but they make a lot of sense to me and have become part of the ethical framework I practice when I’m hiking and camping.