MARQUETTE - As the Fourth of July holiday approaches, many people will take to the woods for a long weekend of camping and relaxation, emerging only for a celebratory parade and fireworks display.
Though the word "camping" often calls to mind an image of foldable chairs set up around a raging campfire, with a dinner of food easily cooked on sticks, there is another type of camping that is catching on: leave no trace.
The idea behind leave no trace is pretty simple: make as little impact on the environment you're camping in as possible.
"The object is to keep the place as wilderness and as wild as possible instead of showing a lot of evidence of human contact and interaction," said Barb McTaggert, a park ranger for Isle Royale National Park, which is known for its strict standards on leave no trace practices.
According to a handbook from the park, the leave no trace principles are as follows: plan ahead and prepare, travel and camp on durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, minimize campfire impacts, respect wildlife and be considerate of other visitors.
One key aspect of leave no trace is impact on the land itself. Be sure to stay on established trails and walk single file if with a group of people. If hiking in an area without established trails, make sure your group disperses to avoid accidentally carving out a trail by having too many feet walk over the same area.
It's also important to set up camp on durable ground so as to minimize your footprint. Always camp in designated areas as much as possible, and if back-country camping, be sure to set up your site on durable ground that won't be much impacted by a tent.
McTaggert said to plan on bringing food that's easy to cook and lightweight, so you won't have to build a large campfire. She recommended bringing a small camp stove to minimize the need for fires, since gathering dead wood can actually harm the ecosystem being camped in.
In short, keep the hot dogs at home.
"Instead of going out to the woods and collecting huge amounts of forest litter, that's actually part of the ecosystem, you need that stuff. Taking it destroys that system," McTaggert said. "A lot of macaroni and cheese and Ramen noodles are eaten on the island. All you need is to boil your water on a camp stove. Hot dogs are too heavy to carry anyway, and there's no refrigeration in your backpack."
One of the most commonly used phrases among leave no trace campers is "pack it in, pack it out," meaning whatever you bring into the wilderness with you also leaves with you. McTaggert said bring plenty of plastic bags to keep your trash in.
"You want to make sure you have some bags or Ziplocs to carry out all your garbage, because there are no garbage cans around for you," McTaggert said. "It's basically, stay on trails, pick up your trash, don't pick flowers, stay on durable surfaces as opposed to crunching across moss."
She also advised leave no trace campers to not take anything from their campsites as well, not even rocks.
"Leave everything as you see it," McTaggert added. "Take pictures."
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.