It is National Travel and Tourism Week 2022, and this year it's all about the #FutureOfTravel! When we at Visit North Alabama think of the future of travel, we think of sustainability. We partnered with Leave No Trace during 2020 when the outdoors saw an influx of people. While this was great that so many new-to-the-outdoors people were getting outside to explore, a new set of issues arose. These new outdoor explorers needed educating on the principles for leaving the outdoors better than they found it. One of the goals of NTTW's 2022 campaign is to foster vibrant communities, so here are some practical things to know about exploring outdoors that goes way beyond picking up trash.
And click the pic below to watch this fun video we made with our North Alabama Ambassador Cody Hood to help illustrate the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace.
(photo by Ambassador Cody Hood)
Know Before You Go
- Learn about the areas you plan to visit. Read books, check online and talk to people before you go. The more you know, the more fun you’ll have.
- With so many people venturing outdoors, trailheads and parking lots can fill up quickly. Be sure to have a backup hike or waterfall in mind so that you can help reduce crowding on popular trails.
- Remember to pack food, water, and clothes help to protect you from heat, rain, and cold weather.
- LOCAL TIP: Make sure to check your phone’s weather app as well as weather.com for the day’s forecast to make sure you’re prepared.
- Ankle injuries are likely to happen with footwear like open-toed shoes or sandals. Whenever possible, wear closed closed-toe shoes (sneakers) to avoid injury.
- Beware of unreliable cell phone service! Bankhead National Forest and many other areas have little to no cell phone service on the trails or near the waterfalls.
- LOCAL TIP: Keep your phone in airplane mode so that your device doesn’t run down its battery searching for cell service that doesn’t exist!
- DID YOU KNOW? There were four search and rescue ventures in Bankhead National Forest last year due to hikers getting lost in the forest.
- It’s easy to get lost when exploring the land and water ways in North Alabama. Use maps to plan your trip and bring them with you to avoid getting turned around and becoming lost. Remember, cell service isn't guaranteed so don’t make your device your only map!
- LOCALS TIP: If find yourself without a map, taking a good photo of the map at the trailhead before you start your hike is encouraged.
- Plan to bring a leash for your pet and plastic bags to pick up your pet’s waste.
(photo by Ambassador Lane Leopard)
Stick to Trails and Camp Overnight Right
- Please stay on trails to avoid unmarked and dangerous caves and sink holes that are common in the area. Staying on trails is also a great way to avoid getting lost.
- DID YOU KNOW? There are 4,014 discovered caves in North Alabama, making North Alabama a caving hotspot.
- Walk and ride on designated trails to protect trailside plants. Trails offer a durable surface that can withstand the effects of hikers and pets.
- LOCAL TIP: You’ll find may species of wildflowers along trails in North Alabama, such as Wild Blue Phlox, different varieties of Trillium, Rue Anemone, Mayapple, to name a few. Avoid stepping on these plants because once they are damaged, they may never grow back.
- Please respect private property by staying on designated trails.
- Camp only on existing or designated campsites to avoid damaging vegetation and unmarked terrain hazards.
Trash Your Trash and Pick Up Poop
- Pack it in, Pack it out. Put all litter–even crumbs, peels and cores—in garbage bags and carry it home.
- Trash and household garbage are often toxic items that are harmful to wildlife. Avoid throwing trash or household garbage on roadsides and our natural areas.
- Swimming holes and waterfalls are being ruined because of trash and litter. Please pack out your trash and consider packing out other trash that you find along the way.
- Help protect our rivers by packing out trash items like plastic six-pack rings and used fishing line that birds and fish might become tangled in.
- DID YOU KNOW? Fishing line can take up to 600 years to decompose? Help reduce the impact to river ecosystems by packing out used line in trash bag.
- DID YOU KNOW? During floods, trash and litter are washed up into neighboring parks?
- Keep water clean. Avoid introducing soap, food, or human or pet waste in lakes or streams.
- Use bathrooms or outhouses when available. If not available, bury human waste in a small hole 6-8 inches deep and 200 feet or 70 big steps from water.
- Use a plastic bag to pack out your pet’s poop to a garbage can. Dog poop contains bacteria and organisms that easily contaminate water sources.
(photo by Ambassador Amanda Bridges-Dunn)
Leave It As You Find It
- Please only use established swimming holes. Damming up streams to create new swimming holes endangers the different species that are living in the water.
- DID YOU KNOW? The endangered aquatic salamander, also known as the Black Warrior Waterdog has been found in Bankhead National Forest and it is only found in the Black Warrior River Basin. There are also 37 mussel species living in the Sipsey River, which makes it the best remaining and most intact mussel communities left in the United States.
- Leave plants, rocks and historical items as you find them so others can enjoy them.
- Please treat living trees and plants with respect. Carving, hacking or peeling them will likely cause them to die.
- Want to save the memories of those amazing flowers that you see without disrupting the local eco system? Instead of picking flowers, consider taking photos of the amazing plants instead!
Be Careful with Fire
- Planning to cook food? Use a camp stove! Stoves are easier to cook on and create less impact than an open fire.
- DID YOU KNOW? Animals like mice, squirrels, skunks, and raccoons will be attracted to your campsite if you cook food over your campfire. Using pungent smells like garlic, rodent repellents, or vinegar can keep them away.
- If you want to have a campfire, be sure it’s permitted and safe to build a fire in the area you’re visiting. Use only existing fire rings to protect the ground from heat. Keep your fire small.
- Firewood should be either bought from a local vendor or gathered on site if allowed. Don’t bring firewood from home – it could contain tree killing insects and diseases like ash borer, Asian longhorned beetle, Sirex woodwasp, beech bark disease, and sudden oak death.
- Remember, a campfire isn’t a garbage can. Pack out all trash and food.
- Burn all wood to ash and be sure the fire is completely out and cold before you leave. Do you have enough water to completely put out the fire?
- DID YOU KNOW? It can take up to 4 gallons of water to safely put out the average sized campfire!
(photo by Ambassador Sam Calhoun)
Keep Wildlife Wild
- Overflowing trash cans present a source of harmful and toxic food for wildlife. If garbage cans are overflowing, don't leave trash beside them. Take your trash with you.
- LOCAL TIP: Bring along a reusable bag that can be used to pack out all trash and litter.
- Observe wildlife like feral swine, copperhead snakes, and rattlesnakes from a distance and never approach, feed, or follow them.
- Human food is unhealthy for ALL wildlife and feeding them changes their behavior in negative ways. Help out our wildlife by never feeding them—intentionally or unintentionally!
- Securely storing your meals and trash helps to protect wildlife and your food! Talk to park staff before you head out to learn how you can secure your food and trash.
(photo by Ambassador Zenovia Stephens)
Share The Outdoors
- Be considerate when passing others on the trail. On narrow trails, step off trail onto durable surfaces like rock or dry grass to allow others to pass.
- Protect your pet from other visitors and wildlife by keeping it on a leash.
- LOCAL TIP: Bring along an extra full water bottle and bowl for your pet to stay safe with you in all temperatures.
- If music is a part of your outdoor experience, please use headphones so that those seeking the natural sounds and solitude of the outdoors have a great time as well.
- We all visit the outdoors for different reasons. Remember to be aware and respectful of other visitors and their interests in being outdoors.
- DID YOU KNOW? Not everyone has had the privilege to learn about Leave No Trace before visiting North Alabama. When on the trail, give others the benefit of the doubt that their less-than-Leave No Trace actions are simply unintentional.
To learn more about Leave No Trace, listen to episode 14 of our Unexpected Adventures in North Alabama podcast. Click the pic below to listen.
©Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics