What do rock stacks have to do with Leave No Trace? Apparently, a lot. More scientists, conversationists, and park rangers are requesting that folks stop rock stacking when they're out and about on the trail. Why's it a big deal? Is it actually a big deal?
Where the heck does rock stacking even come from? Well, according to my Cairn Terriers, Lucy and Charlie, rock stacks aren't real "Cairns," which are dedicated memorials or landmarks. These rock stacks that are cropping up throughout the wild woods are done more for artistic or "fun" reasons. Sometimes, for meditation - and the popularity of them may have sprung up from a 1987 new age movement called the Harmonic Convergence.
I belong to a number of hiking groups on FB (imagine that) - and I've seen this topic crop up a number of times recently. And it's always incredibly and unnecessarily tense. The counter-arguments usually focus on how extreme it is to target things like rock stacks as part of Leave No Trace, and if the environment survives hikers, kayakers, etc. it can survive a couple of rocks stacked up.
It isn't always just one or two rocks - many beaches in the Northwest and other areas are completely covered with rocks stacks and a lot of them. (Please click links for slideshow pic credits).
Parks have specific guidelines, as well as the Leave No Trace Principles, that help to curtail the impact humans have in those areas. It's important to abide by them, even if they don't make sense at the moment. Like the rock stacks, or staying on the path.
Moving rocks can impact the natural habitat for those critters that call it home. It can disrupt waterways. It affects game trails. When you move a rock, you might also be unknowingly moving critters, fungus, bacteria, seeds, etc. to another area that didn't have those types before. For example, someone on Insta gathered rocks from five different state parks they visited and in the final one made a rock stack. Cool idea, except they most likely brought in seeds, etc. from other states that may not have been present.
Also, safety, first! A lot of National Parks and hiking areas use stacked rocks (actual cairns) to mark paths - such as Dolly Sods in P.A. Hikers can easily get lost when you start adding your own directional markers.
Rock stacks can be beautiful - they really are art - and made of "natural" bits, so it's easy to forget that just because it's pretty, doesn't mean it doesn't have a negative effect. And that when you're in the great wild, that it doesn't belong to you - it isn't your backyard. You're a steward of the land you visit. So remember, leave it how you found it or with as little impact as possible.
Leave No Trace isn't about doing it perfectly - and I'll say this again and again and again. But it is about learning, growing, and doing what you can when you can.
What do you think about rock stacking? Leave a comment below or contact me here.
*MISFIT HIKER SHOWCASE*
“I found myself lost living in a new state and needing another change in life in 2016. I came across the 52 Hike Challenge and that was the beginning of my hiking lifestyle. My first thoughts were there's no way I can complete 52 hikes in a year; one hike a week. Funny part was that I found myself hiking more than that per week. I found myself seeing Arizona like no regular people would see it. Hiking has taught me to be more calm and to challenge myself physically and mentally. Finding myself pregnant at 43, wondering how was I going to continue hiking with a child, has been the best experience ever. Teaching and raising my daughter to love the outdoors has brought me more close to nature. Before moving to Arizona, I wasn't a hiker -now I'm glad hiking has become the most important part of my lifestyle.” — Michelle, (@hikerocknroll).
Michelle is an ambassador for the Phoenix Hikerbabes Chapter in Arizona. She runs the chapters facebook page and started an Instagram page to share the Phoenix ladies photos from their adventures. Her goal is to encourage other like-minded women to get outdoors.
Tag #misfithikers to be showcased!
[Image Description: A woman with tats, wearing a pink brimmed ballcap, black shorts, and glasses, walks on a dirt path in the desert. She has on a backpack with blueish straps. She is smiling down at a toddler wearing a pink t-short and short. The toddler is carrying a babydoll wearing a blue/green outfit. Mountains rise in the background, and scraggly brush and rocks dot either side of the trail.]
Why is it so expensive to "go green"? Cost doesn't just deter folks from getting involved in outdoor activities and adventures, but from going "green." Let's face it, it's a privilege to be able to focus on earth-green instead of money-green. Lots of my friends share articles all the time on things you can easily do, but they almost always cost $$ and sometimes a lot of it - everything from recyclable bamboo toilet paper and installing solar lights, to buying bulk at Whole Paycheck Foods (their food is amazing, just expensive for a lot of folks). It's easy to say not to use one-off plastics when you don't live in Flint, MI and rely on bottled water. Even the blue recycle bags required by many cities cost anywhere from .25 to .40 cents a bag. It adds up, and quickly. Luckily, though, there's lots of things you can do that will help the environment AND not cost you big bucks. Check out some ideas below:
- Cutting down on single use plastics:
- At home:
- Out...or In...with the Old
Obviously, this list is FAR from exhaustive. And it's never about doing it all, or doing it perfectly - it's about doing what you can, when you can. If you can afford the big-ticket green items, go for it, if not, then implement what you're able to without breaking the bank. Going greener doesn't have to be privilege, we just make it seem like that.
What are some ways you've implemented affordable "green" or "sustainable" changes in your life/home?
Comment below or contact me here!
*MISFIT HIKERS SHOWCASE*
“Growing up in a city and the youngest of 4 kids in the 1960s, I always felt a little out of the mainstream, a misfit. Most of my friends and family were city people but I was drawn to nature from my earliest memories. My favorite TV shows were about nature and I took every opportunity to get out of the city and go walking in the woods.
As I grew older, I also increasingly became aware of another unusual feeling. You see, I was assigned male at birth based upon my genitilia like everyone is. But they couldn't see my heart, soul and mind. At this time there was no Internet, no support groups, no words to describe my feelings. So I followed the path that was given to me. It wasn't my path but it was my only choice.
By the early 1970s I began to understand that I wasn't alone. But the information was still sparse and erroneous. So I struggled with this civil war in my soul, seeking help through counseling and reading anything I could get my hands on.
But I didn't fit neatly into a box or label...I was a true misfit. This lasted for over 40 years cycling episodes of depression and confusion with episodes of certainty that I wasn't Transgender. But I was.
Finally in 2008 I began my journey to myself and came out publicly in 2016. I couldn't be happier (other than losing some "friends and family"). And all through this my love of hiking has sustained me. Before my transition (gender revelation, not transition), I hiked to run away from myself by taking on the personna of a rugged "mountain man". Now that I've shed my lies, I hike as the woman I've always been without pretension and unafraid to show my full self as a Tomboy kind of woman, being a badass hiker chick! And I finally love my life!” – Stephanie (@Trans_zen_hiker_nhsteph)
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[Image Description: Stephanie stands smiling as she pulls a grey glove from her hand. She is wearing a blue skirt, black leggings, black long-sleeved shirt and a blue buff. Her cheeks are rosy and her blond hair tied in a pony tail. Tall, snow-covered pine trees line both sides of a snow covered path. Orange hiking poles stand crossed, off to one side.]
“Hi. My name is Shaun. I’m a misfit all around. I believe boxes are best for cats not for humans so I am myself 100% of the time. I struggle with drug resistant severe depression and anxiety. I try to find the positive and the humor in everything. When I’m not working (I manage a Tea bar where the workers lovingly refer to me as “dad”) you can definitely find me outside. It’s where I feel most happy, free, and at peace. I hike, skateboard, trail run, and explore (both solo and with friends) and have for as long as I can remember. My philosophy in outdoors and life is “you do you!”—Shaun, (@Dykesonhikes)
Pronouns: she/her or they/them
📍 Chico, California – This land was originally held in stewardship by the Mechoopda Maidu peoples and others.
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[Image Description: Smiling in sunglasses and a black t-shirt with a white “Unlikely Hikers” t-shirt, Shaun stands clasping a grey and black backpack shoulder straps. Behind her is a vista of scrub brush, and tall pines and mountains can be seen in the background.]
Safety on the trail is a hot topic currently and apparently it's mostly in regards to women. This is my surprised face. I belong to a bunch of hiking groups for Ohio on FB, and in the last few weeks several women have asked a) if as a woman, they will be safe if they hike alone and b) what folks use to stay safe while on the trail.
I was shocked at the majority of responses (over 80) that said gun & a CCW...and not one person, besides me, said a GPS satellite communicator amidst the spackling of other suggestions (pepper spray, don't hike alone, tell someone...basically another blog post at some point).
Fuck that noise, noting that I have nothing against guns (I'm too clumsy to carry, not to mention I'm guessing someone would wait till they were right next to me to attack me and getting the gun pulled at that point would be quite difficult). However, this isn't to debate guns on the trails, but one particular way that can help you stay safe - GPS Communicators. Because, in reality, you're much more likely to fall, become seriously ill, etc. on the trail than you are to be attacked by a person.
In fact, one of my biggest sources of anxiety was getting in to an area, having an issue like a seriously fall or coming across someone in need of help, and not being able to contact anyone. It freaked my family out, too. With the Garmin InReach, that's not an issue anymore - and I can see it's practicality, not just in hiking, but all sorts of situations - like a car accident in a rural area without service (check out my previous article on all the benefits of a GPS Communicator here).
So what's awesome about it? Well, it's small - 3.9 x 2 x 1 inches and weights only 3.5 ounces. Weight reallllly matters to me with my back injury, and was one of the main reasons I hadn't picked one up previously.
What I Love - pls bear in mind I have the cheapest subscription option...:
I've used the Garmin InReach Mini on quite a few trips now, and EVERY. SINGLE. MESSAGE I've sent has made it through, even when in valleys, in the snow, and it's overcast with tree cover.
At some point, I'll go over one that I tried before the Garmin that wasn't quite as...successful, as well as how to stay safe against predators - both human and animal.
Do you use a GPS Satellite Communicator? Why or why not? Do you like it? Leave a comment below or contact me here!
“I was never much for the outdoors- even living in Colorado - until I got my pup Callie. I am so thankful to her and her love for the outdoors. I had a hard couple of years between my health and family and being outside has brought a calmness back to my life. Nature has become my happy place, my getaway Hiking has changed my outlook on adventures in general. There are so many place I want to visit and see!! I started my insta since I saw few people that looked like me out of my local trails. I wanted to show others that you don’t have to be a certain type to enjoy the outdoors!!” – Natalie (@Chubbygirlhikes)
📍 Mt. Cutler, Colorado area, this land was originally held in stewardship by the Cheyenne, Arapaho, and possibly others.
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[Description of Image: A smiling girl stands in a pink sleeveless top, black tights, and a black ball- on an outcropping of rock with scraggly brush and red-rock behind her, a green vista in the distance. A white dog with a black patch of fur on her eye stands next to her.]
How do you medically advocate for yourself? For those of you that follow along, you know that I went to the Cleveland Clinic main campus ER about a month ago for a severe back pain issue and the experience was less than stellar. It was actually awful, mainly because the doctor failed to adequately manage the pain, attempt to find a diagnosis, or come up with a treatment plan. I did a follow up post regarding the very well documented dismissal of women, people of color, people of size, etc. who complain of pain. So now, the final post - how to medically advocate for yourself.
It's important to be able to do so, especially if you're an adventurer, because even if you don't have chronic pain there's a fairly high likelihood that you'll injure yourself in some way at some point.
So here's a few tips and tricks to make sure that you're diagnosed and treated.
Do not let them shame you. Being fat or old or gay is not a moral issue. YOU ARE A PERSON AND DESERVING OF TREATMENT.
Do not allow yourself to be dismissed - you know your body - insist on care. It could save your (or a loved one's) life.
If you're doctor isn't taking your pain or issue seriously, ask for another doctor. You're having real fucking symptoms, don't let them make you feel bad for having them.
When my grandmother had a stroke, she was definitely not getting the care she needed at the rinky dink hospital she was at. They refused to do any tests to see if she'd had a stroke, etc. In fact, they insisted she was simply dehydrated and refused to do anything at all except IV saline. We insisted she be transferred to another hospital, which took my father and I driving to main and not budging an inch. The doctor was later fired, and my grandmother was transferred to a larger hospital able to get her the care she needed (and responded to).
If you have a chronic issue or long-term disease, carry your medical records with you. You can get a free dropbox account to store them, or email them to yourself. Don't depend on your phone, in case you don't have it when you go.
Next, question, question, question and be sure to communicate concerns and desires. There are some questions you can write out beforehand (and give to a friend), so they're stuck in your mind and ready to go. When in the ER, especially, it can be stressful and overwhelming, making it very easy to get confused/forget to ask the important stuff. Some questions to ask if you go to your regular doc/doc in a box:
- What do you believe the issue is?
- Why do you believe it is xyz?
- Is there a test to confirm that? Why are you/are you not confirming?
- I am in a significant amount of pain - what is the plan to treat it? Why are we treating it in that way?
- Why hasn't my pain been addressed yet?
- If your symptoms persist, do NOT be afraid to go to another doctor, even if you like the one you have. Different doctors have different knowledge bases and experiences.
If you’re in the Hospital or ER, then add these questions on:
I'd like to mention that the Cleveland Clinic is one of the top rated hospitals in the country. I have had wonderful treatment there. However, this ER needs to get its shit together. I still have nightmares about it.
I'm definitely implementing these, so I can be better prepared if there's a next time. Hopefully, they also help you or a loved one. If you have any tips to add, please feel free to comment below or contact me here.
The new year is upon us! New decade, the return of the roaring twenties, what's not to love?
This is the year that I was able to not just start hiking again, but hiking like a fiend. So many firsts - 12 new trails, first backpacking trip, first time night hiking, first time hiking 3 times a week, first time hiking 500 miles in six months (or a year!), first time starting a business on my own, first time leading a clean-up hike, first time using instagram for something other than posting adorable dog pictures (well, I *may* still do that)....
This is the year I started Misfit Hikers & Adventure, Co. The year I realized that there's a LOT of folks out there that are just like me - who want to enjoy the outdoors and the adventures that exist in this great big world, but who don't always feel like they belong or that have to do it a little differently. There's so many wonderful hiking groups here in Ohio, but none with quite the slant of MHAC.
I'm truly thankful for those that are a part of the Misfit Community and the perspectives they're willing to bring to the table with such enthusiasm.
MHAC is still finding refining its voice and slowly but surely figuring out what the next steps are, because I, as in Jenn, is still figuring this thing out. For 2020 there's a few new things that Misfit Hikers would like to try:
- Organized Hikes for fellow Misfits!
- Keep showcasing folks and getting other narratives out there
- A talk or two about gear/hiking/etc.
- Find a partner out there in the great void of sponsers, so I can maybe get a bit more reach
- Keep the blog going twice a week
So thank you to everyone that supported MHAC this year - your support has made all the difference!
Wish me luck, and welcome aboard for the wild ride that will be the first year of the new decade!
Any suggestions to help grow Misfit Hikers? Want to participate in the upcoming fun? Comment below or email me here.