Friday, April 21, 2017

Town Etiquette for Hikers

It happens every year on the Appalachian Trail.

Yet another trail provider has discontinued its use to hikers because of bad behavior. Some businesses like motels no longer offering discounts to hikers due to ill practices. Or others have simply closed their doors to hiker traffic altogether. Just a few years ago the Appalachian Tail Conservancy implemented the trail community program to foster relationships between towns and hikers. As noted on their website:

“The Appalachian Trail Community™ program is designed to recognize communities that promote and protect the Appalachian Trail (A.T.).  Towns, counties, and communities along the A.T.’s corridor are considered assets by all that use the A.T. and many of these towns act as good friends and neighbors to the Trail. The program serves to assist communities with sustainable economic development through tourism and outdoor recreation, while preserving and protecting the A.T.
Designation as an Appalachian Trail Community™ and participation in the program is aimed to:
·         Engage community citizens, Trail visitors and stewards
·         Recognize and thank communities for their service to the Trail and hikers
·         Act as a catalyst for enhancing sustainable economic development
·         Aid local municipalities and regional areas with conservation planning
·         Help local community members see the Trail as a resource and asset”

This is a way to foster communication and relationship between towns, the trail, and hikers. Yet each year there are hikers that abuse the services towns provide. Because of the actions of a few, several of these communities have found their ties with the trail and hikers strained. We as hikers needed do our best to foster a good relationship with towns as well as educating them on hiking and trail life.

With this in mind, here are a few things to consider while in a town on a long distance hike:
Trail town of Hot Springs, NC

In towns -
Be sure to clean up as soon as you can when arriving in town (hiker funk to the public is not fun or funny). Saying please and thank you goes a long way. Don’t use foul language in public. This is a town with families. Greet townspeople with a smile. Say hello. If they ask questions, talk about your hike but also ask them questions, too. And be sure to thank them for what they do for hikers.

Practice Leave No Trace Principle, yes even in town. And that means, showing respect, courtesy to others and to businesses. Respect the town, the people, and law enforcement. No drunkenness or drug use (the main cause of trail providers closing their doors!). You’re hiking a trail, committing yourself to discipline each and every day. You can also be disciplined while in towns. If you can’t get off the mind-altering substances or limit drinking, then get off the trail. Trails and towns are not for partying, nor do folks want to be subjected to it. Towns are where people live and work. They want peace. 

In hostels and motels - don’t trash the rooms, leave copious amounts of trash everywhere, leave dirt, blood etc. in the sink, floor or tub. Don’t use the motel’s white washcloths to wash dirty stuff. Clean out the sinks and tub after use. Pick up the room before you leave. If there is a NO PET policy, abide by it (that includes NOT saying your dog is a service animal when he/she isn't!). If there is a hiker limit to the rooms, abide by it. And don’t take the extra toilet paper rolls. If you can’t afford to buy a roll, then you shouldn't be out hiking because you can't afford it. If you do need a roll, ask management if you can pay for one. Be sure to tip the housekeeping staff and leave more than enough money when staying at donation-basis hostels - least $20 for your stay plus $5 for laundry.  

In restaurants – abide by the policies of the restaurant by not hording food, coming into the restaurant unbathed, or wearing dirty footwear. Tip for your meals. Don’t assume you can walk in and charge electronics unless you are a paying customer.
Towns are great places to eat.  

In Laundromats – don’t leave trash, dirt or other debris in the place. This is a public facility where townsfolk also do their laundry. Please clean up before you come with your laundry. And wear clothes. If you need to, bring or mail or bounce a box with a pair of lightweight shorts and t shirt you can use while in town. Or use your rain gear like your jacket and pants (NOT a poncho with nothing underneath!). Also, don't do laundry with just a towel wrapped around or something else. Kids go into laundromats too, as does Grandma.

By being respectful, we hikers can go a long way in protecting a valuable asset to the trail experience – the trail towns. 

1 comment:

City Farmer Guy said...

Well stated and logical advice!!