Tag Archives: Leave No Trace

Backpacking Grayson Highlands

I spent Easter Weekend, and a few days extra, backpacking through Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia. Having never been to this area I was not sure what to expect. I had seen pictures from friends’ trips and looked online but that still didn’t prepare me for the experience. Some highlights included visiting with wild ponies, splashing in creeks, bushwhacking, hiking the the highest point in Virginia and eating delicious food. At many points I felt as though I ways on another content, not just a few hours away from my home. The rocky terrain and the vast open valleys made me feel as though I was trekking through the set of The Hobbit. We spent 4 days in the backcountry, picking up and moving camps every night. Each new day came with its own new environment. One day we could only see trees in the distance and the next we were hiking through a mossy forest covered by the canopy of evergreens. One day we had to hike a ways for water and the next day we were swimming in a creek. It was rewarding to know that I was able to see all of this beauty by foot, that I had walked, crawled, hiked, climbed and traversed every mile. On the last day we pulled out the map to figure out where we started, days before, and it was now a peak in the distance.


On our last night we ended up sleeping at Wise Shelter, the 500 mile marker along the Appalachian Trail. There must have been 30 hikers staying in that area and we actually had the opportunity to feed a pair of hikers some dinner. That night we saw people of all ages and all walks of life set up camp together. Some had accents and some didn’t, some where alone and some were in pairs, and some seemed like experienced backpackers and others appeared to be beginners. It was entertaining to witness their community that they had all formed. Many had been hiking together for weeks now, and others had just met at the town before. They all supported of each other, encouraged each other, and shared their belongings and stories with each other. I was glad I got to be a part of this literal milestone on their journey.

How cool is it that nature, and the simple act of hiking along trail has the power to change peoples lives and create such an incredible community? 

Leave No Trace: For the Everyday Citizen

Leave No Trace are a set of guiding principles for outdoor ethics that has also become a non-profit organization to teach these principles. I recently have become certified as a “Leave No Trace Trainer” which means I am qualified to teach others these principles. I wanted to share with you simple ways that you can practice outdoor ethics whether you are in your backyard, local parks or backpacking your way through Europe.  For more information on Leave No Trace click the link provided at the bottom!


Going somewhere new? Hit up the good ole world wide web to do some research to find out the details or ask some locals. When my friends and i just started school here in Boone we knew very little about local hiking spots or waterfalls. We didn’t know simple things such as…. Where are we going to park?  How long is this hike going to take up? What should we bring with us? Luckily over time we have become quite knowledgeable but we definitely should have done some research before we set off on our adventures. We have probably parked on one to many private properties.


Stay on the sidewalk or the provided trail. You can bet that someone worked very hard to build the trails you are hiking on so stick to them! They are there for a reason so try to avoid the use of social trails or short cuts. I know…switchbacks are annoying and take quite a bit of time but, try to enjoy the hike for what it is and spend some much needed time outside.


I love pets and i strongly encourage taking your dog along with you on an adventure or a walk in the park but, make sure you are doing so responsibly. Pay attention to the dog regulations, keep them on a leash and scoop their poop. Nobody wants to step in dog poop, swim in it  once it runs into a nearby stream.


Raise your hand if you have ever collected a seashell from the beach. My hand is raised! We all do it. They make for lovely decorations and a fun reminder of the beach but, we need to try and minimize our impacts on the natural environment. Next time you are on your favorite beach try and minimize the amount of shells you are taking. We want seashells to be there for generations to come and ultimately they aren’t ours to take. Take only photos and memories with you!


No littering! Luckily in many places there is a fine for littering but make sure you are recycling and throwing things away even when someone isn’t looking. Check out the timeline to see how long simple things take to decompose! I know i am guilty of spitting my gum out the window…that takes 5 years to decompose eeeepppp! Ain’t nobody got time for dat!


Be respectful of others in life and in the outdoors! Remember that they are there for an experience too! Offer to take a families picture or allow a smaller group to move ahead of you. The outdoors are ours to share.


Thanks for stopping by and leave a comment! Always love to hear from you!

peace out

The Stingray Excursion


In the January, 1989 issue of National Geographic David Doubilet wrote the article, “Ballet with Stingrays” documenting his photographs and experiences with these creatures. He reported, “I had always thought of stingrays, with their broad wings and graceful movements, as almost mythological beasts: part bird, part fish…I find them to be gentle, wondrous birds of the sea.”

This past summer,I had my first opportunity to swim and feed stingrays at Stingray City in the Cayman Islands. David Doubilet was correct, the stingrays were beautiful and alluring. I, along with the people I was with, were nervous getting into the water and having stingrays with weapons at the end of their tails swim freely around our ankles. Luckily our guides were calming and reassuring and I was successful in holding, kissing and feeding a stingray.

When i go on tours like this I am always the girl asking tons of questions ( my 4th grade teacher used the word inquisitive). In most cases the people leading these types of tours love what they do and have incredible amounts of first hand experience so I tend to take advantage of it, but i have never had any complaints.

With hundreds of visitors coming to this particular site each day (and millions annually) this makes an obvious impact on the stingrays themselves and I, along with the people I was with, were very curious to learn how the stingrays remain protected and safe. After all, we did kiss them so we felt an emotional connection to them. The tour guides were able to give us their own personal company’s efforts but were not exactly wildlife conservationist so when I returned back home I did some research on the impact we are having on these slimy creatures by “trespassing” on their habitats.

NOVA Southeastern University’s Guy Harvey Research Institute did a study on this exact area, Stingray city in the Cayman Islands. They found that the actions and behaviors of this population of stingrays had drifted far away from that of their wild counterparts. Because of the large amount of traffic in this underwater city the stingrays have almost unlimited access to food and no longer have the need to hunt or scavenge. As a result the stingrays of Stingray city no longer travel large areas, usually at night, to find food nor do they abide by their usual solitary habits. These stingrays now remain more active during the day, when the visitors arrive, feed in groups and even mate year round instead of seasonally. These stingrays, that individually can bring up to $500,000 annually from tourist, have been subject to a dramatic behavioral change due to the presence of human provided food.

Even though it has been 24 years since David Doubilet wrote this article his final words in his article still stand, “ If Cayman Islands officials protect the rays, divers continue to feed them, and human visitors treat them with gentleness and respect, they will provide one of the most rewarding, experiences in the undersea world.”

I tell you this to raise awareness so that you choose to book with a respectable agency, to leave no trace and understand the needs for conservation and research to ensure that these beautiful birds of the sea remain a part of our underwater ecosystem for generations to come.

Thanks for reading,