Trails for All
This year is a special one. The NC General Assembly designated 2023 as NC Year of the Trail! The reason behind the designation is to bring awareness of all of the trails within in our state that showcases the beauty North Carolina landscapes offer. Also, it helps promote healthy recreation while stimulating local economies.
The vast network of trails North Carolina has to offer includes trails for hiking, biking, equestrian, and paddling; which means there is something for everyone. During the initial outbreak of Covid-19 many of us turned to the outdoors for peace and to just get away from things, but even then many aspects were left undiscovered. 2023 is the largest celebration of trails that is taking place statewide and of outdoor recreation in North Carolina History.
Thanks to the Great Trails State Coalition an awareness of what there is to offer is taking place. For example; did you know that in each of North Carolina's 100 counties one should be able to enjoy some type of trail? With trails being the backbone of the states ever growing $28 billion outdoor recreation who wouldn't want to support the effort.
One of the goals for the year of the trail is to promote safe and responsible use of trails. When many took to the outdoors during the height of Covid the trails and nature's fragile ecosystem weren't taken care of. Once pristine areas became covered with trash and the ecosystem was damaged due to overuse and not following the basic outdoor principles. I want to highlight a few of of the principles that are simple and make a big impact.
- Pack it in Pack it out - This is simple, whatever you take with you on the hike don't leave it behind. I have also heard this called trash in trash out. This helps keep the trails clean and protects the wildlife and ecosystem.
- Leave it better than you found it - Some refer to this as leave no trace. While you may be responsible when you are out, not everyone else is. If you see trash pick it up and take it with you. I am going to include be careful with fire here also. When using a fire follow regulations, secure permits if needed and use designated locations for the fire. Most importantly, make sure the fire has been 100% extinguished before you leave the site.
- Stay on trails - Don't create shortcuts or new paths in another direction. Going off the trails damages the fragile ecosystem and if enough people do this it can completely destroy that area.
- Keep away from wildlife - This should go without saying, but folks every year get to close and end up getting hurt. Also, this means don't feed the wildlife. You may think you are being nice and giving hungry animals food, but that isn't what it is teaching the animals. When we feed wildlife they become accustomed to getting food from humans, which leads to camp sites being raided by the animals. This creates an unsafe environment for both the wildlife and the humans.
- Be prepared - When you head out on the trails whether land or water, make sure you have what you need. Pack food, water, first aid and the right type of clothing to protect yourself from the elements. If you are planning on camping make sure to know where designated sites are located, following regulations and get any necessary permits.
The great outdoors is meant for us to enjoy and we all have to do our part when taking enjoying outdoor activities. If you would like to learn more about the NC year of the Trail or outdoor principles check out the links below. Stay tuned to learn about a few of my favorite trails!