By Lindsey Sidener - Denver Alpha Betty
Last week I was supposed to lead a Bold Betties night hike under the glow of the super moon. You know, that event that hasn’t happened since 1948 and won’t happen again until 2034. I had my route carefully picked out to give excellent views of the city and the moon rising in its backdrop. I had quite a few people signed up to attend and could already picture my new Facebook cover photo framed in my head.
There was just one problem. The trail I picked out was part of an Open Space park, owned by the county, and it closed an hour after sunset. How could I have spaced this out!? Even worse, I found this out only 3 hours prior to our scheduled start time. It would have been easy enough to shrug this off – it was the supermoon after all. A special occasion and doesn’t the BOLD in Bold Betties mean taking risks!? It was going to be dark anyways and really who would see us on the trail? Well I guess there would be all those headlights. And all those cars at the trailhead. And oh, there is a specific sign that says the park closes an hour after dark posted right at the trailhead.
Sure being BOLD is about taking risks, but it’s is also about doing the right thing, as unpopular as it may be. I knew people were excited about the hike, and that some Betties had planned to get off work early to be there. I knew some were bringing their professional camera equipment to take pictures, and I even had some who had never night hiked before and were looking forward to their first experience of hiking-by-moonlight. Ultimately though, I knew what the right decision to make was. I had to cancel the hike.
One could argue that the over-regulation of our public lands is to blame. Why all these rules about when a trail closes, or where we can have campfires, or why we can’t tube in a certain section of the river? As an Alpha Betty part of my responsibility is in making sure an event follows rules and regulations. Do we need a permit? How big is our group size? As BOLD BETTIES we also have a responsibility to be good stewards to our land and encourage best trail practices. Sure, I could have taken the group up past the closed sign, but that would be sending a message that breaking these sorts of rules is ok, and if that’s ok what else is fair game? Ultimately it’s up to each one of us to practice responsible outdoor citizenship. That means obeying the trail signs, practicing leave no trace, and encouraging others to do the same.
How can BOLD BETTIES be the best possible stewards of our public lands? Here are a few ways to get started:
- Rules and regulations exist for a reason. Don’t do what I did and just assume something will be open. Go online or call ahead of time to check on permits or seasonal closures…and then follow those rules! If too many people circumvent the rules it can lead to permanent closures or even worse, severe consequences for wildlife.
- Inform others (as nicely as you can) when you see them doing something that could be construed as having a negative impact on the environment. I had a lovely chat with some visitors who were feeding the chipmunks at Rocky Mountain National Park last summer right out of their hands! Nature can’t speak up for itself – it’s up to us to defend and protect where we recreate.
- Lend a hand. I’ve started carrying a grocery bag and some rubber gloves on all of my hikes and will pick up trash I see along the trail. Last spring I ran out of trash space at a popular front range trail because of the various wrappers and poop bags others just discarded.
Leave a comment below to let us know of your own best trail practices!
An enthusiastic hiker, skier, backpacker and general do-er of outdoor things, Lindsey has had the privilege of calling Colorado her home since birth. Recognizing the need for safety and education in the backcountry, Lindsey recently became Wilderness First Aid certified and will soon be graduating from Wilderness Trekking School through the Colorado Mountain Club. You'll most likely find her car already parked at a trailhead at sunrise during the summer, or on the slopes of Mary Jane all winter long. One of her favorite activities is introducing people to her favorite Colorado spots, just don't tell anyone about her secret stashes! Checkout Lindsey's blog about her adventures at www.outsidener.com