American Long Distance Hiking Association - West

The Discreet Dirtbag

17 Apr 2018 12:27 PM | Kate Hoch (Administrator)

The Discreet Dirtbag
By: Felicia “Princess of Darkness” Hermosillo

The spring equinox has come and gone. Some folks have already begun long hikes while others make final preparations. Whenever you start, and wherever your adventure takes place this summer, you’ll likely walk into a town at some point...dirty, bedraggled, with gear to dry and a belly to fill. As more and more of us spend time in the outdoors, and then require rejuvenation in town, our interactions with business owners and their patrons become more important than ever. ALDHA-West has been adding a “Hiker Town Etiquette” section to their “Leave No Trace” presentation, and it is worth revisiting before the season gets fully underway. Here are some of the basic suggestions that have come from numerous conversations with business owners and hikers:

  • Always offer to pay for rides and services ($20 per night at a trail angel and $1 per few minutes of a ride; both of those prices are cheaper than a hotel and Lyft, respectively).
  • Say please and thank you every time, to everyone.
  • Ask for permission before plugging in electronics and/or spreading out your gear to dry and be respectful if they say no.

"I asked for and received permission before spreading out my gear out.”
Photo by: Liz “Snorkel” Thomas

  • Ask about alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana policies and then respect those policies.
  • Do not stack hotel rooms or allow friends to shower, ask the proprietor for permission and offer to pay up front.
  • Ask for garbage bags in lieu of leaving resupply boxes and paperboard stuffed and overflowing in trash cans.
  • Remember that you’re not more important than anyone else just because you happen to be on an extended vacation.
“The Sharif told me I could take a nap here since the dogs are currently not using the park.” 
hoto by: Kate “Drop-N-Roll” Hoch

  • Be helpful to the locals.
  • When dining in a restaurant, shower first or ask to sit outside.
  • Watch your noise levels when in groups and in-town.

Being a good ambassador is a responsibility that belongs to all of us, and, along with those lines, I would like to add one more suggestion:

  • Call your peers out!

I know that is not going to be a popular item to add to the list of suggestions, but it is important. People don’t often change until they are called out by their peers. For those of you who are unsure how to do this I have a few suggestions:

  • Make corrective recommendations to the other person, “Hey Fire Ant; I think the owner might not be down with that, how about we go and ask before spreading out our tents?”
  • Define the undesired behavior, then leave a good impression by suggesting an inclusive recommendation, “Hey Twinkle Toes, we’re going to get hikers kicked out if we sneak alcohol in, let’s go have a drink at the bar instead before heading back.”
  • Don’t go along with undesired behavior and make sure they know what you are referencing, “Hey Taser Face; I’m uncomfortable with ______, I’m going to head back, and I will see you guys at the hostel.”
  • Circle back and say thanks when someone changes their behavior, “Hey Lightening Bee, thanks for asking the owner for us to plug in our phones, that was thoughtful of you and will make a big difference for future hikers.”

Being a good ambassador and helping each other to leave a great impression is all of our responsibility and it will foster a great relationship between the towns we need and the trails we love.

©2019 ALDHA-West

ALDHA-West is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

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