Help reduce damage to the trail and the stress of those using it by making a concerted personal effort to become a more courteous and more respectful hiker this year. While we may live in a polarized world, let's try to hike in a manner that allows everyone to enjoy the same space, through practicing preservation and not being jerks.
1. Stay off muddy trails
Muddy trails present a 'rock-and-a-hard place' dilemma and should really be avoided altogether. Using a trail while it's muddy damages the trail itself, while stepping off of a trail to avoid a muddy section can damage off-trail areas and create erosion along the edge of a designated path.
Instead of hitting the trails where conditions are muddy, plan an adventure in a drier part of town. Remember – trails that get the most sun tend to dry out the fastest.
Author's Tip: One great way to stay up-to-date on the status of local trails is through the official COTREX app. This app allows land managers to add notes related to closures and restrictions that may be present on a given trail, including when mud may be present.
2. Ditch the speaker
Not only is blasting music a surefire way to annoy everyone on the trail around you on the trail, it's also a great way to scare off wildlife – something many people look forward to seeing. Be a respectful hiker by leaving the speaker at home. Even if you don't care about how loud music impacts the hiking experience, realize that a lot of people do.
Instead of a speaker, opt for headphones – preferably just one, as having headphones in both ears during a hike can make it hard to hear things that should be heard for safety reasons. Having one headphone in can still be a hazard, but it's better than two.
3. Quit leaving poop bags behind
If your dog poops on the trail, pick it up in a poop bag AND bring the poop bag with you. I get it, you don't want to smell a stinky poop bag for your entire hike. However, it's important to realize that those passing past a poop bag left behind for later retrieval also don't want to smell your dog's poop. Poop bags left behind can also put a damper on the hiking experience for others, turning an escape into nature into a walk down a trail strewn with literal bags of waste.
If you don't want to smell your dog's poop or deal with carrying a poop bag, bring a second, larger bag to seal in the stink. Keep the larger bag stowed away in a backpack.
4. Say "Hello" more often
Chaotic times call for comforting measures. When you pass someone on the trail, be polite and wish them a good day. Ask how they're doing and make sure they don't need help. Everyone can use a little bit of friendliness and positivity these days. Obviously, it's still recommended that you follow social distancing rules.