We have a goal to take our boys to all the National Parks. We’ve talked about this before and where we get inspiration. We feel strongly that we want our boys to experience the beauty of God’s creation, but also that we want every child to have that same opportunity. Thus, we feel strongly about “leave no trace”.
Leave No Trace
We’ve heard some question the value of this principle. I’ve heard women stay “but my child just wanted one flower. But, no, she couldn’t pick it because of ‘leave no trace’.” Usually, there is the attitude of “how can the NPS be so harsh?” and “they are so mean!” “It’s just one rock.” or “It’s just one small handful of gravel off the parking lot”. And the impact of 1 child taking 1 small thing is small. But when you have a million children….
We often don’t realize that we are not alone in our desires. Most little girls want just 1 flower. When most children pick only 1 flower each, that still adds up to a lot of flowers.
On the other hand, lets say that you are alone in that desire for a flower, or a rock, or a stick. So you take it. You are in the back country, so its not likely that there will be that many people are coming through. But now that flower, rock, or stick isn’t there for that next person. They don’t get to have that same experience you had.
“Leave no trace” means that we aim to move about and interact with the wild in such a way that we leave no trace that we were ever there. In reality, this is utterly impossible. My footsteps leave trace that I was there, and I’m sure I’ve left other bits of things behind, perhaps paper or some food scrap. But we try hard to minimize this. This is not easy with kids. But it’s worth the effort.
Let Them Be Children
Please keep in mind that we are all about giving our kids the opportunity to really play outside, to even modify their play area. That’s why we have a mud pit in the side yard; Little Man can dig and build just about all he wants (he does have limits). I’m working hard to make sure my kids don’t suffer from “nature deficit disorder”, which according to Richard Louv in Last Child In The Woods, is taking a toll on our children. I take Charlotte Mason’s words very seriously when she says “In this time of extraordinary pressure, educational and social, perhaps a mother’s first duty to her children is to secure for them a quiet growing time, a full six years of passive receptive life, the waking part of it spent for the most part out in fresh air.” (Vol 1, pg 43) (emphasis mine). We want our boys to experience the beauty, the order and the danger of God’s creation, and be allowed to be children. And we give them space to do that.
But the National Parks, State Parks and Monuments are set aside for the benefit for all people. This means that when we visit these places, we leave it, as much as we can, such that others can experience it as we did. And this means working hard to leave it as it was when we got there…. Leaving no Trace that we were there.