We consider ourselves incredibly lucky. This city of ours is perched in a stunning, geographically diverse state, and we have unparalleled access to the outdoors. It’s a privilege to call these mountains, trails, parks, and protected spaces “home”—and it is absolutely up to us to take the utmost care. Our mind-bending natural beauty undoubtedly plays a big role in the popularity of our city, and as we continue to take notice of the increasing number of fellow nature enthusiasts that settle here, we’ll also see the increased footprint that humans can’t help but make.
Make no mistake: everyone deserves to enjoy our mountains’ majesty, but not just today—it should be preserved for generations to come.
To that end, we wanted to offer a few reminders of what NOT to do when frolicking through our deserts, camping in our woods, and reveling in our great outdoors. Soon enough, the weather will warm up again, and our wild spaces will fill with weekend adventurers. If we can all just keep these few simple things in mind, our surrounding natural landscapes will maintain their beauty for decades more, which means we can all continue to respectfully enjoy it.
1. LITTER: Really? Reminding you not to litter? Couldn't come up with something less played? NO. Because it’s everywhere. We should all know better at this point, but there is still so much trash to be found out there. Maybe the majority of us is beyond tossing our Big Mac container on the ground and walking away…but blatant, intentional littering isn’t the only kind. More often than not, it’s something that accidentally fell out of a pocket or pack, and the point here is simply to be more mindful. When you’re done with the picnic spot, check it twice for inadvertent trash. Have some kids in your wilderness gang? Check it three times (and watch those snack wrappers with a keen eye). And if you see a bit of rogue plastic that isn’t yours, pick it up (then sanitize those hands)! This is your house too. Let’s all keep it clean!
2. WHEN NATURE CALLS: This is essentially still litter, but now it’s grosser and more serious. Everyone has to go, we know…especially if you're out on a 3+ hour hike. No facilities nearby? That's okay, you're outside. If it’s out of sight, you can assume it’s fair game. But a good day of hiking can easily be ruined as you gaze upward to take in the grandeur of it all and find yourself standing in a thicket of used toilet paper. In some areas, it’s still okay to bury your TP, but those places are few, and you really ought to pack it out. And if you do have to bury it, be sure to go deep. Even if you think you’re in a spot no one else will ever find…do the right thing. No ifs, ands, or butts.
3. THE HILLS ARE ALIVE: Oh, the sound of music. It’s a genuine joy in life to pair some of our favorite things—getting into nature and listening to your favorite music can be cathartic/meditative/euphoric/motivational, etc., and we’re always in favor of doing that which makes you feel alive. However, it’s important to keep in mind that some people might not want to hear your favorite songs while enjoying the outdoors. Individual tastes aside, some folks choose only to listen to nature itself when they get outside, and we can all respect having the option, right? This one’s an easy fix: leave your bluetooth speaker at home and bring your ear buds instead. Noise pollution is still pollution, no matter how sacred Danzig’s “Mother” is to you.
4. LEAVING YOUR MARK: There are so many ways to leave one's mark on the world. One great way to do so, for example, is to preserve and respect nature in all its glory. Or you could donate to a non-profit that protects our resources and wild spaces. But scratching your initials into a tree or carving a heart with your current lover’s name into some red rock? It’s asinine and destructive. It’s lame. We can do better than that. We've all seen a spot out there in some middle-of-nowhere majesty that somehow got designated as the “I was here” sketch pad. It has a domino effect, unfortunately—once you’ve etched “PF + CK 4EVA,” there are sure to be more that follow. It's un-artistic, unappealing, and all around unkind. Leave the trees and rocks and manatees alone.
5. WOOF: Our furry friends need their nature fix too, and we’re all for it! But for those that might be newer to our neck of the woods, be sure to pay attention to the rules. Dogs (and other active pets) aren't allowed in our watershed canyons, so make sure you know where you’re headed and whether your pet should be there. And once you and your BFF are in the right place, we're right back to poop and plastic. Really, friends…be sure to put the poop IN the plastic, and then take that poop-filled plastic bag WITH you. None of this “I'll remember this little steamer on my way out” business—we know that this thinking is flawed. Pack it out, and let’s avoid the many forgotten green/blue bags of doo along the trail.
6. DON'T FEED THE LOCALS: It's always exciting to see animals in the wild…just doing their cool animal stuff in their natural habitat. Utah is abundant with creatures of all kinds, and as our outdoor enjoyment pushes further into the places they call home, we'll undoubtedly be crossing paths with them more often. Near our high mountain lakes, it’s not uncommon to see moose or even bears, and it’s imperative that you give them their space. But the less threatening, downright adorable animals we see more frequently should also be left alone. The bushy tail is so adorable, and you’re obviously tempted to share your Cool Ranch Doritos, but don’t do it. As the old adage (or just the version from our favorite wildlife biologist) goes, “A fed animal is a dead animal.” Sounds harsh, but the truth is that wild animals can become so accustomed to handouts from hikers that they stop learning to find/hunt food on their own. Plus, it makes them fatter…which makes them cuter…which leads to more Doritos. Stop the vicious cycle.
Really, it’s just about being aware out there, friends—Aware of yourself, aware of your actions, and aware of the impact that you’ll inevitably have on others, human or not.