Soft Paths Assignment 

Hello everyone this is my soft path assignment.


  1. Picking the Right Shoes 

When planning your hike or trip you have to make sure to choose the correct shoe. It must be comfortable as per your individual preferences yet light enough to avoid further damage to trails. The main part of picking your footwear with regards to trail impact is the sole of the shoe, I recommended to avoid a heavy stiff-soled shoe because of the impact that this will have on the ground and vegetation.  For me, this impacts my adventure trip because we are planning on going for a hike and don’t want to destroy the nearby vegetation so when planning the trip, knowing that my group has stiff shoes, we may want to pick a more resilient trail rather than go off on pristine vegetation 




2. Plan ahead and Prepare 

Before you go hiking in the backcountry it is necessary to prepare for your trip. If you don’t prepare properly it can lead to disaster in the middle of your trip. While preparing keep in mind the regulations and criteria of the area and always keep in mind a route that is appropriate to your skill level.  For me, this means getting to know the locations and trails with the rest of my hiking group. Researching about hiking, including reading books like “Soft Paths”, learning from my peers, researching stuff online, making sure I have the right gear. This has the added benefit of creating stronger bonds with my classmates and making me feel more confident in our abilities. 


3. Choosing your hike location- Popularity 

Another thing to keep in mind is the popularity of the trail. You don’t want to go too popular because this increases damage to the system but if you are inexperienced you don’t want to go in the middle of nowhere because if an accident were to happen you might not be able to get help quickly or rescue yourself.  For me, the trail we are going on for the adventure trip is relatively popular and this provides an extra level of safety because popular trails tend to be better marked, we are closer to other campers in case of emergency, wildlife tends to avoid large groups and popular trails (as long as they are not being fed). But being on a popular trail also has its downsides. Being close to other campsites can tend to ruin the natural feel of the wilderness if you are constantly hearing or seeing other hikers or their litter.  I will be mindful of protecting the vegetation and trail by staying on the marked paths. After reading this book I better understand when to pick different trails because of their popularity and the damage that repeated visitors can have on ecosystems, path, and campsites. 


  4. Choosing you hike location – amount of use 

The most important factor with choosing a campsite is the amount of use that campsite has.  In order to minimize your impact on the wild, you should avoid pristine little used sites in order to let them regrow or gain back their natural state. This is because the more used a site is, the less impact you will have by camping on that site as long as you don’t increase the boundaries of the established campsite.  If we are hiking in small groups on established paths, we should walk single file and avoid increasing the path or creating multiple spiderweb paths. If we are hiking in a pristine area we should spread out to limit the damage to any particular area and to avoid creating trails, this ties in to planning our trip because the hikes we are going on are all established trails.  


5. Pack it In, Pack it Out 

In the wilderness, one of the worst things to see is trash and litter.  In large amounts, I can ruin the aesthetics of the trail, and even in small amounts, it can destroy the wildlife and animals surrounding the trail. An example of this is food waste. Animals will pick through the trash you leave behind, smelling the food waste, and will grow accustomed to digging through trash and eventually campsites if left unchecked. If an animal becomes habituated or dependent on these food source often this directly leads to the animal’s death.  To avoid this is to pack out everything you pack in and clean up after hikers who have gone before you if they have left garbage or litter behind. This ties into my adventure trips because we will plan to bring a garbage bag with us and will try to reduce the packaging of our food and the other potential garbage that we start our hike with. 


6. Protecting the Water 

While waste on the land is sometimes more noticeable, waste in the water can stretch for longer and have a bigger impact on animals as well.  To protect natural water and your drinking water you should always clean stuff downstream from where you are collecting water and also strain or scatter dishwater at least 200 feet from the freshwater source and not use any soap or chemicals near water to avoid contaminating the water. You should also not go to the bathroom within 200 feet of any water source, trails or other campers. This is to avoid contaminating places where other people will walk, swim or drink from. You have to be especially careful near water because there are often more animals near water and any damage spreads.  This applies to my adventure trips because a large group produces more waste and therefore needs to be even more careful of their impact and a large group needs freshwater as well. 


7. Respect Wildlife 

Wildlife is vitally important to all ecosystems, including those of popular trails.  Respecting wildlife means giving them space, not feeding them, preventing impact on their environment, allowing them the means to avoid us (i.e., making noise while hiking). Another way to minimize impact is to animal proof food and supplies by hanging your food properly in trees or keeping it in a bear cache and by using animal proof containers.  This ties into the Talons trips because we are going to be in the wild and as preparation for the trip we should know how to identify and protect different types of wildlife.  We encounter a lot of wildlife on my street as well and have to protect them there as well. 

8. Leave what you find 

When traveling in the backcountry you may discover cool or interesting rocks or stick that you would like to keep as a souvenir. Allow others to discover the same things as you by not picking up or collecting these items.  This has the benefit of not disrupting wildlife by removing objects in their world. I tend to be a collector and like to fill my pockets, so for me, this will mean controlling this impulse and maybe bringing a better phone or camera so I can take lots of pictures instead so I have the pictures as my keepsakes.  On our adventure trips, I might volunteer to take some group pictures or volunteer to bring a camera. 


9. Travel and camp on durable surfaces 

When picking a location for the campsite you should try to go on surfaces like rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow because these surfaces are more resistant to damage. If there are no durable surfaces nearby then look for surfaces that have been previously used because this will limit the damage that you do on a new surface.  If it is a pristine site then spread out a vary your paths because this will avoid trampling one area and allow the entire area a chance of regrowing and protecting it from damage. This is crucial during Talons trips because of the number of people we are camping with because more people cause more damage it is crucial that we camp on surfaces that are resistant to damage. Personally, this means confining myself to a smaller area to avoid further damage to unused vegetation and nature surrounding the campsite. 


10. Bear Safety 

We live in bear country therefore it is important to know how to protect and respect these creatures.  There are many types of bears in North America. When hiking in BC we typically encounter Black, Brown, or Grizzly bears. It is important to know the types of bears because you need to act differently around different types of bears.  Black bears live in woods and are found all across North America. They are omnivores, eating anything from berries, to grubs to food taken from camper’s packs. They are smart animals and have been known to break into food containers and unlock cars.  Grizzly bears are a bit different and are more comfortable in open country rather than in forests and are more aggressive and therefore more dangerous than black bears. This is important to adventure tri because we might encounter bears while hiking and it is important to know how to act during an encounter. 


11. Hanging Food 

Hanging food is one of the main ways to reduce the impact on a bear’s eating habits. When hanging food make sure it is 5 feet away from the trunk, 5 feet beneath any branch, and at least 12 feet off the ground.  This ensures that a bear will not be able to get your food and impact its hunting and eating patterns. Another thing is to hang multiple caches so if a bear were to get one it would not be all of your food and you will still be able to continue your hike.  This is useful information for Talons trips because without this information we not be able to store our food properly and if our food was eaten it might end our hike prematurely. 


12. Trail Dilemma 

When planning a hike, you have two options: on trail or off trail.  Each of these has their own pros and cons.  Pros of going on a trail include minimizing the damage to plants and will be less likely to get seriously lost. Cons of the trail are if the trail is poorly made it can still suffer damage and surrounding a trail is often informal or spiderweb trails to avoid hazards to avoid muddiness, puddles or other obstacles. These spiderweb trails are not designed well and still suffer huge damage if people walk on them repeatedly. On the other hand, pros of walking in the back country are that you are less likely to encounter other traveller and things impacted by other people which can increase the nature experience of your hike. Cons to going off trail are that you are unable to do things that you’re are unable to do on trail, like leave notes or markers in the dirt or sand and that it might be easier to become disoriented or lost. When planning our adventure trips, we have made the decision to hike on trails to minimize our impact on the environment while still having the experience of hiking in nature. 


13. Type of Use of Campsite 

Heavily used campsites are more affected by the types of use rather than the quantity of use. More frequently used campsites do not have the recovery time that a less use campsite, this applies to a certain extent but after a certain point the amount of use barely increases the damage. For example, campsite used 15 nights per used lost 81% of vegetation whereas campsites used 5 times as often lost a bit more than 91%, significantly less than predicted. What this means for us is that if we choose well established campsites, we will not really be increasing the impact to the surrounding environment if we respect the boundaries of the campsite and do not increase or extend the boundaries. 


14. Hiking party size 

One of the factors that causes this is the size of the group.  For example, most trails and campsite hold up better when you have small groups 3-4 people rather than large groups like 10 or more, this is because larger groups tend to bare up larger areas of the ground. Another problem of larger groups is the size requirement. Because more larger groups means more or larger tents the footprint of the campsite is increased by the increased need for space.  This causes more trampling and more vegetation destruction than with a smaller group.  All of this ties into Talons trips because we are going to be in larger group therefore, we have to be extra careful about the impact we cause to campsites. 


15. Don’t Deliberately Damage your surroundings 

When initially camping at a pristine site, the signs of use seem small. Most people don’t notice minor trampling or a little less firewood, but as more and more people begin to use and destroy the area then campsites will lose an alarming amount of vegetation and wildlife. In fact, 95% of trees were damaged by people collecting firewood, hacking them for wood, or hanging ropes and one third of trees were completely by campers cutting them down in Eagle Camp Wilderness in Oregon. This just shows how much damage people can deliberately do in a campsite.  This affects future Talons trips because our actions now affect the people who will camp after us on those same hikes and trails. This just goes to show how awareness of consequences can change actions in a group and help to preserve the forest’s natural surroundings for the future. 


16. Fire Rings 

When encountering a fire ring in a site you first have to evaluate if it is in a good position and a good size and that it is. If it is not, it might be worth your while to build a new one or to dismantle inappropriate fire rings to minimize future use and damage fires within these rings might cause.  Do this by turning over blackened rocks and scattering ashes over a wide area. If there is no surrounding firewood you will not want to build a new fire ring as this will increase the area that does not have firewood.  How this impacts Talons is that if we encounter Fire Rings in inappropriate areas, we should probably dismantle them appropriately to prevent their future use. 


17. Bear Avoidance 

When hiking or camping in bear country you must be aware of how to avoid encounters with bears. You can do this by being loud or noisy when hiking and by dissuading bears from coming near you with items like bear bells or bangers. If you see a bear, remember that space is safe, back away giving the bear space, and avoid eye contact.  Give the bear an exit. As a last resort if a bear is aggressive or attacking it may be a good idea to use bear spray as a deterrent.  It is important to know how to use it before you need it so for Talons trips it is a good idea to make sure everyone knows how to use bear spray and how to avoid close encounters with bears. 


18. Fires vs Stoves 

It can seem that there is no other option but to use a fire to cook things but stoves are better in almost every way. An example of this is the wood that fires used to burn. The wood that people use for campfires is useful for giving the soil and bugs nutrients, protection, and living quarters. They also serve as food for plants and it has a water holding capacity so when droughts occur plants can survive from the water in the wood. When wood is burned in campfires it destroys all of these benefits.  So why do people choose wood: portability. Because you don’t have to lug around a stove and fuel everywhere it provides a better way to feel that you are living off the land. Some people also feel that campfires are more traditional and it won’t feel the same without one.  Stoves fix most of these problems by not using wood and instead of using fuel. The downside of this is the weight of carrying around the stove and fuel and some people feel the loss of ambiance is a downside. This relates to Talons because we have decided to only use stoves for the trip and we feel this action alone will help to protect the habitat along the hike. 


19. Toilet Paper 

To reduce waste leaves, moss and rocks, snow and vegetation can make good toilet paper. However, you have to consider that this may damage the environment so it might be a consideration to bring toilet paper in with you and to pack it out in a garbage bag rather than burying it or leaving it exposed on the ground It falls under the rule of pack it in, pack it out. For Talons hikes, knowing that we have to pack out toilet paper I will bring my own small garbage bag to carry my own used toilet paper out with me. 


20. Consider Other Visitors 

When hiking on trails you have to be considerate of other visitors. You can do this by giving them space and by not breaking and camping in popular areas. You can also do this by moving to the downhill side of the trail. this relates to talons because on a talons trip, we are part of a large group, and it is our responsibility to try and prevent impact on other visitors.  






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