Thursday, February 23, 2012

Partnership in Action

Cortez, CO. A long standing partner and supporter of the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, Osprey Packs, Inc. holds a Kid's Essay Contest every year. This year, Osprey is seeking great writing that highlights kid's very best adventures with a pack and demonstrates an understanding of the principles of Leave No Trace. The winner of the contest has their choice of a pack in the Sprint Series- all of which have the seven Leave No Trace principles screened into the pack. Here is the first winning essay from the contest:

Our latest Kid's Essay Contest Winner
Justin Todes!

A Life-Changing Experience

By Justin Todes (15 yrs. old)

As a Cub Scout, I always enjoyed camping in the outdoors. I loved nature’s sounds, sights, and opportunities. I worked my way up to Wolf and Bear before entering Webelos, when my love for the outdoors only grew. Campouts were now once a month instead of twice a year, and the activities were increasingly exciting.

The two amazing years of Webelos went by quickly, and it was soon time for me to join a Boy Scout Troop. In April of 2008, I joined Troop 599, The Thunderbirds, and easily fell in love with Boy Scouting. Now Scouting was more independent, more fun, and more meaningful. Later that year, I was introduced to backpacking at a Wilderness Survival outing. At this time, I did not know much about how or what to pack, or even the concept of backpacking. Due to much discomfort from my gear and poor packing method, the outing was not a pleasurable experience. This however, did not halt my backpacking endeavors. Our Troop soon began educating us on proper backpacking, with emphasis on Leave No Trace, which motivated me to get back up and give it another chance as I began doing training hikes in late 2009 for a backpacking journey in mid-2010. I had learned how to pack light (packing light is packing right), as well as what was essential to pack (and what is not). This led to a comfortable backpacking experience, and I soon began to fall in love with backpacking.

In July of 2010, I ventured off with a crew of 11 others from my Scout Troop to Philmont Scout Ranch, a vast, scenic, mountainous piece of land in northern New Mexico. Two weeks of beautiful country lie ahead of us, and with those two weeks, 65 miles of backpacking. I was Crew Leader, which added to my experience at Philmont in a very positive way, teaching me leadership and patience, in addition to some new outdoor skills. Day by day, we hiked through Philmont, summiting mesas and mountains, crossing creeks (sometimes as many as fifty-three times), and enjoying the lush, green forests surrounding us.

For our first three days at Philmont, a ranger guided us and taught our crew how to do things “The Philmont Way.” This essentially came from the seven principles of Leave No Trace. Specifically at Philmont, each campsite has a “Bearmuda Triangle.” In one corner of the “triangle” is the fire ring and dining fly. In another corner are bear lines on which bear bags are hung (smellables go in the bear bags). In the final corner, for proper disposal of waste, is a sump. A sump strains wastewater, storing the water in the ground and leaving food particles, etc. to be properly disposed of. Fifty feet away from the dining fly was the tent area. The sump was at least 200 feet away from the tents.

Our ranger taught how to hang bear bags, to protect us from the bears and to protect the bears from becoming dependent on human food. This in a sense falls under Respecting Wildlife. Our ranger also taught us about campfires. We learned that fires only should be made in a fire ring (concentrated impact), and that the fire must be completely put out once everyone goes to bed. The next morning, the ashes from the fire must be scattered along the trail for the first thirty minutes of hiking. Finally, we learned about waste. “Pack it in, pack it out” is a common phrase in the backcountry, especially at Philmont. Any trash we produced had to come with us until we reached a staffed camp, where we could dispose of it. However, minimizing waste is not as simple as this. It also relates to the Bearmuda Triangle.

Meals the Philmont way were not exactly pleasant. The “just add water” food was fine. It was later on, after eating, when things got ugly. To reduce waste (or at least waste we carried out), we had to pour water into our bowls after we were “finished” and drink the water, food particles and all. I quickly learned how to drink this while avoiding my tongue. Anything else left in our bowls was licked clean before washing. With our pots, two crewmembers each night were given the torturous task of pot scraping. This task involved eating any food left in the pot, and then scraping the pot clean (eating your scrapings as well). The remaining bits in the pot were later removed with boiling water. Using the sump, the water was strained. The food particles on top of the sump’s screen went into “yum-yum bags,” special Zip-loc bags with the task of collecting these food particles, which were carried out as trash. While minimizing waste was not necessarily fun, our crew managed to survive the two weeks of drinking cheese-water, oatmeal-water, Mexican beef fajita water, among several others.

Despite drinking these mysterious concoctions, the scenery was amazing. Whether tall mountains, spacious canyons, or trickling streams, we still want to preserve the beauty contained within each. Leave No Trace is an extremely important element of being in the outdoors. Philmont was a gift that God gave to us. Our way of thanking God is to maintain Philmont. By implementing Leave No Trace, Philmont can and will be maintained. Leave No Trace is what makes it possible for the land today to still exist for generations to come. Just as those who have come before us have kept Philmont beautiful, we too can play a part and do the same.

Justin won an Aether 70 Men's Lightweight Pack.

To find out more about the essay contest, click here.

Thank you to Osprey for their continued support and to all of you that practice Leave No Trace!

Respect the Resource...Kate and Tracy

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