Why You Need a Leave No Trace Trainer Course

Materials I received from the Leave No Trace Trainer Course.

Driving around Buffalo Point Campground in the Buffalo National River and completely lost in the fog, I pulled over to check my phone for directions. Fortunately, I had just enough cell reception to retrieve them from my email. I knew I would probably be lost without cell phone service, but did I print them out? Nope.

“Oh, the Leave No Trace Trainer Course isn’t even at Buffalo Point Campground,” I said to myself. It was at a location in between the campground and Rush, which is the last spot to take out before floating away for days when kayaking on the river. I was not off to a good start. I had already failed at Leave No Trace Principle No. 1 – Plan Ahead and Prepare.

Fortunately, I was on my way to learn more about Leave No Trace Principles and how to teach them to others.

The Leave No Trace Trainer Course is a 16-hour course taught over two days. The one I took was taught by Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics Arkansas Advocate Rob Stephens and Buffalo National River Park Rangers Lauren Ray and Chris Littlejohn.

Learning how to wash dishes at the Leave No Trace Trainer Course
Learning how to minimize waste when washing dishes in the front country
If given a chance to take this course, I highly recommend taking it. I was blown away by how much I learned and how much fun I had during the weekend.

My weekend began on Friday night – once I had found the correct location – by getting to know some of the other participants and leaders. Our basecamp was at the Toney Bend Research Learning Center. The plan was to camp outside in the yard; however, storms were due to move through the area, so we stayed inside on bunks for Friday night.

The severe weather plan to was to gather in the basement, which was a very creepy basement. We came up with a running joke of the weekend that we were going to make a horror movie called “Last Door on the Right,” because the basement was the perfect setting for a scary movie.

The view of the Buffalo River from Toney Bend Research Learning Center

Saturday morning began bright and early as we had a ton of information to cover. At first, I thought 16 hours was a long time to cover seven principles. And my coworkers questioned me on how hard could it be just to tell people to not throw trash on the ground. But the truth is Leave No Trace is much more than that. Throw in learning teaching styles and skills, and 16 hours only touches the surfaces.

The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics is headquartered in Boulder, Colorado. It is a non-profit that is education based.

Its mission is to “protect the outdoors by teaching and inspiring people to enjoy it responsibly.”

Their goal is to minimize impact from those who love to go into nature and experience all that it has to offer. And just as we want to experience nature in its … uh, natural state, we want to minimize our impact so others can have the same experience.

The Leave No Trace Trainer Course is a wonderful and fun way to learn about the seven Leave No Trace Principles and how to teach them to others.

According to the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, more than 13 billion trips take place in the outdoors. And nine out of 10 people who go into the outdoors are not familiar with Leave No Trace.

That is why it was so important to me to take the Leave No Trace Trainer Course. As someone who blogs and encourages others to go into nature, I believe it is also my duty to educate others on Leave No Trace Principles. I also believe it is the duty of anyone who loves spending time in nature to help educate others in Leave No Trace practices.

So what are the seven principles?

I have written about them before, but here they are in a nutshell.

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare

That was where I messed up in attempting to find where the course was taught. I should have read the directions before I left and looked it up on a map to be sure I knew where I was going.

However, not planning ahead could result in a life-threatening situation. So you always want to plan and prepare before you do any excursion in the outdoors.

2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

The more people are discovering the outdoors the more beaten down the earth gets. It is important to stay on the maintained trail or camp on a durable surface to prevent the wilderness from looking like a city park.

As part of the Leave No Trace Trainer Course, each participant had to teach a principle or part of a principle. I taught to camp on durable surfaces.

3. Dispose of Waste Properly

This doesn’t just include throwing your Clif Bar wrapper in the garbage. It also encompasses the ethics to orange and banana peels and other natural items, as well as burying human waste.

Learning Leave No Trace Principle No. 3 in the field.
Learning Leave No Trace Principle No. 3 in the field

4. Leave What You Find

It’s not the one person who picks a wildflower; it’s the collective impact, the hundreds of park visitors before and after you who also want to pick just one flower.

5. Minimize Campfire Impacts

Everyone loves a good campfire, but being irresponsible can lead to a lot of damage … a lot! We’ve been seeing more and more wildfires in the news. And the majority of those are preventable.

6. Respect Wildlife

One thing that really irks me is to see people crowding wildlife to get a better picture. And once my friend Lagena and I watch a group of people chase a grizzly bear across the road. It does not only endanger wildlife, but it also endangers the person.

7. Be Considerate to Others

It’s always important to remember even though you feel like you might be the only one for miles, you are probably not. Blasting music or acting like a fool, is a good way to ruin that solitude for others.

I could go into way more detail on each principle – and I will. Be on the lookout for “Leave No Trace Tuesday,” where each week I will expand on each principle and how to better follow that principle.

Leave No Trace Trainer Course Weekend

Even though it was a weekend of “school” I still had tons of fun. When I signed up for the course, I secretly prayed for rain on the weekend. But then I read the packing list, which called for a tent, good sturdy hiking boots, and water shoes. Of course, a Leave No Trace Trainer Course was not going to be held indoors all weekend! What was I thinking?

The group enjoying lunch and learning how to minimize waste.
The group enjoying lunch and learning how to minimize waste

The course is mapped out so that it doesn’t feel like a trainer course at all – just a group of friends hanging out in a national park for the weekend. We hiked; we picnicked; and Ranger Chris lead a star party, which was extremely informative and fun.

We also discussed Leave No Trace and the impact social media plays. As a blogger, I found this discussion interesting and enjoyed learning ways to use social media responsibly in regards to the outdoors and fragile ecosystems.

I highly advise getting involved with your local chapter of Leave No Trace and taking this trainer course so you can pass that knowledge on. For my fellow Arkansans, follow this link to see what you can do here.

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The Leave No Trace Trainer Course is a wonderful and fun way to learn about the seven Leave No Trace Principles and how to teach them to others.

2 comments

  1. I’ve been wanting to take a LNT course for a while now. Thanks for the post, this looks like a lot of fun and not the boring weekend indoors that I was so afraid of!

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