We've all heard and read the "Leave No Trace" guidelines, and understand the importance of this. We think of our hiking experience as an environmentally friendly activity, and indeed, part of our trail experience is a personal relationship with the environment.
Now think of how you arrive at your favorite trailhead. You probably drive your car, truck, SUV, or whatever fossil fuel consuming vehicle.
Isn't this counter to the whole purpose of hiking?
I have to admit that I am just as guilty as the rest when it comes to driving long distances solo to hike.
But today, after having been saturated with news of the catastrophic disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, I have to re-think some of my actions and decisions.
I would like to reduce my carbon footprint.
To me, it makes sense to have a group of hikers in one vehicle. A lot of hikers already do. I've seen groups of four or more hikers getting out of vehicles at the trailhead. But then, you have guys like myself who mostly hike solo.
What am I supposed to do?
I want to support the environment, and to help reduce our dependence on oil and gas, but I do not feel so comfortable seeking other hikers who are going to the same trailhead.
I doubt I could even find one person from my town that is interested in going to a particular trailhead on any given day.
This Sunday, weather permitting, I am going to try something different.
I want to hike the AT from route 17 on the west side of Harriman Park (Elk's Pen) up Arden Mountain (Agony Grind) and south.
I plan a hike of about 5-1/2 hours max.
But instead of driving my car to the trail, I am going to take the Metro North / NJT Railroad to Harriman and walk the 2 miles to the trail.
In order to get to Harriman from my home in Teaneck, NJ, I have to take two trains on the trip out, and a train and a bus on the trip home.
I am doing this because I feel that if I am going to hike the trail without leaving a trace, I want to also reduce or eliminate my carbon footprint getting to and from the trail as well.
I think that taking public transportation is a satisfying way to reach the trail.
I am planning another hike that will start at the Metro North AT station near Pawling, NY.
I also planning one that will begin at the Harriman, NY station, and end at the AT station at Pawling (a 6-7 day hike).
So, while I am not asking anyone to stop hiking to avoid leaving a carbon footprint, I am asking that we all try to reduce that footprint by using public transit where possible, and grouping with other hikers when we do drive.
Thank you for listening. Enjoy your hike