Activity Plan 1 for Travel and Camp On Durable Surfaces
Exploring Travel Concepts
This activity will take about 75 minutes.
What Your Group Will Learn
After participating in this activity plan, which is designed to help
participants learn about backcountry travel, participants will be able to
- Describe the value of trails in backcountry travel.
- Apply Leave No Trace ideas
to travel decisions in the backcountry and near home.
- Create and travel through
imaginary backcountry landscape. The participants will take two trips. First
they will imagine their backcountry landscape is a popular, well-used area with
a developed trail. On the second trip, they will imagine the area is rarely
used. How will group members choose to travel to their destination in each
situation? The backcountry landscape will provide a focal point for questions
Materials and Preparation
- A large (approximately 18" x 24"), shallow box or container with an open top. An outdoor
sandbox or similar area will also work well.
- If a box is used, collect enough
sand, dirt, or similar material to fill the box to a depth of about 1 inch.
- Small paper cutouts or other objects to simulate natural features such as
animals and vegetation (trees, shrubs, grasses, etc.).
- Small stones and flat
rocks to simulate boulders and rocky surfaces.
- Read this entire
activity plan and the Background on the Principles of Leave No Trace thoroughly.
- Prepare a backcountry landscape prior to your group's arrival by creating a
flat, featureless layer of slightly damp sand or soil in the bottom of your box.
- Have group members make small cutouts or bring toy objects from home to simulate
natural features. Preparing these items prior to your meeting will contribute to
Alternative setting: A sandlot playground can serve as a
"life-sized" backcountry if preferred. Prepare the sand with a rake or
other tool to create your featureless landscape. The trick is to make the area
smooth enough so that participants can see the effects of their travel. Swing
sets and other playground equipment can serve as "rocks" and other
Grabbing Your Group's Attention (15 minutes)
Your group is
going to build an imaginary backcountry setting. The backcountry landscape
created will stimulate participants' curiosity and interest; they will actually
see their "footsteps" on the landscape. Presenting this activity in a
fun and interesting way is crucial to its success.
Have everyone gather around
the prepared box of sand or soil. Using the cutouts, pebbles, rocks, and other
objects, have the participants create a backcountry world into which they will
enter on an imaginary hiking trip. Your backcountry world should include a
"stream" or "river," "trees," a
"meadow," and at least one "flat, rocky area." Designate a
point at one end of the box as the "starting point" and a point at the
other end of the box as the "final destination."
Steps for Teaching the Activity (45 minutes)
Scenario 1: On-Trail
1. Have participants decide as a
group where to locate a narrow "hiking trail" leading from the
starting point to the final destination. Tell them they must include a short
section of zigzags (switchbacks). Have one person use two fingers to draw the
trail in the sand.
2. Present the following scenario: Imagine the group is
planning a trip through its backcountry landscape. The trail and destination are
visited yearly by many hikers and campers. The goal of the group is to leave as
little trace as possible while traveling from the starting point to the final
destination. Each participant should indicate the route he or she would take by
letting the "fingers do the walking" in the moist sand. Instruct the
group to identify one spot for a break along the way. Let each person indicate a
path before discussion.
A close review of the Background on the Principles of
Leave No Trace is needed to effectively lead discussion. Ask participants the
Why did you choose the route you did? Most people will
choose to stay on the trail. The discussion should focus on choosing a route
that will protect the land and help prevent new trails from beginning.
land managers build hiking trails for backcountry visitors? Constructed trails
concentrate hiker activity and help prevent informal trails—which increase the
impact on vegetation and may cause soil erosion—from forming.
Where should the
group stop for breaks? Taking breaks off-trail can help preserve solitude for
others; however, always take breaks on durable surfaces. Move to gravel or flat
rocks if such surfaces can be found without disturbing soil or vegetation and
preferably out of sight off the trail to allow others to pass without impacting
How noisy were participants during their hike? A little
chatter is a part of hiking and can reduce the risk of bear encounters in bear
country. However, screaming, radios, singing, and other loud noises upset the
outdoor experience of all visitors and may disturb wildlife.
Summarize these key points:
- Use existing trails.
- Avoid taking shortcuts.
- Walk single file. Avoid
Scenario 2: Off-Trail
1. Use a wide paintbrush or your hand to
erase the trail from your back- country landscape.
2. Present your group with a
new scenario: Imagine the group is planning a trip through a new area rarely
visited by hikers and campers—it has no trail leading to the destination. The
group's goal is to reach the destination while leaving as little evidence of its
passing as possible. How should group members travel to their destination?
Again, each participant should indicate a route by letting his or her
"fingers do the walking" in the moist sand. Let each participant
indicate a path before discussion.
A close review of the Background on the
Principles of Leave No Trace is needed to effectively lead discussion.
you choose the route that you did? Traveling off-trail will present group
members with difficult decisions. It is important to help people develop
critical thinking skills by weighing the effects of alternative off-trail
choices. Should they spread out or walk in the same path?
Would your choice
differ if this were a desert environment? Forested environment? Generally,
spreading out will be the best choice, but this may be inappropriate in some
desert environments. Avoid sensitive riparian areas. Refer to the Background on
the Principles of Leave No Trace for details.
Where should the group stop for
breaks? Find durable surfaces such as large rocks, sand, or gravel when stopping
Summarize key points with participants.
- Avoid hiking off-trail in
highly sensitive areas, especially with large groups. Consider changing your
- If hiking off-trail, spread out and travel on durable surfaces to
avoid making new paths that destroy vegetation and lead to erosion. Take special
precautions in desert areas where cryptobiotic crust is easily damaged. See the
Background on the Principles of Leave No Trace.
- If hiking off-trail, don't mark
your path with trail markers that may encourage others to follow. The likelihood
of permanent damage increases as more people trample the same area.
the Activity (15 minutes)
Your campers have explored travel methods that help
preserve the naturalness of the outdoors for wildlife and visitors. How well
have they learned to walk softly on the land? Ask them:
- What role does pretrip
planning play in choosing the best route for an outdoor excursion?
- How might
planning a route before starting a trip help protect the land?
Imagine that each
person travels at random, some walking along the banks of the stream (fragile
area), some traveling through the trees, and some taking shortcuts up steep
banks (erosion). How might this random method of route selection affect each
Small groups reduce the likelihood that an unsightly web of new
footprints will be created. Ask participants the following:
- How large a group
might be appropriate for a trailed backcountry? For a trailless backcountry?
your camping group is larger than the group size you have suggested here, how
might you solve this problem?
- Can they recall examples of travel damage they
have seen in the backcountry?
- Have group members seen damage from poor travel
habits near their homes or in parks?
- What are the city's equivalents to trails?
Ask each person to describe one backcountry travel idea he or she will promise
to use when traveling the outdoors—or even in the city.
Congratulations on conducting a well-prepared meeting for your group!