7 Ways to Take Good Care of the Outdoors

people hiking at Magee Preserve
Guided Hiking Tour of Magee Preserve led by Seth Adams, Save Mount Diablo Land Conservation Director and Dave Hammond, SMD Volunteer with developers Davidon and land owner Jed Magee – May 18, 2019

We love going outdoors, and we’re sure you do too.

To protect nature, we all need to do our part and treat it with respect. Usually, no one wants to hurt the environment. However, sometimes people unintentionally hurt wildlife without realizing it, such as by tossing orange peels. (Did you know it takes orange peels more than a year to decompose?)

In recent months, local parks have seen a surge in usage because of stay-at-home orders. Whether you are new to going outdoors or experienced, it doesn’t hurt to learn or refresh your knowledge of how to take care of nature.

Leave No Trace created the Seven Principles, an easily understood ethical framework to utilize when going outdoors to ensure we are all able to use and enjoy it, and that nature will last for generations to come. 

We break down the Seven Principles and explain how to use them when going out to Mount Diablo. 

People hiking on the Mary Bowerman Trail

A properly prepared hike is often the most enjoyable hike. Some people find just as much enjoyment in planning a hike as actually hiking it. Here are some basics to help plan your adventure. 

Planning your route

Plan which route you’ll take beforehand. If you want to hike a new trail or go into a new area, do some research on how to get there, if there is an access fee, etc. 

Consider your skill level. More importantly, if you’re hiking with a group, you’ll need to consider everyone’s skill level. Remember, you are only as fast as your slowest member. Try to plan hikes that you think everyone will enjoy.

Another important factor is the terrain and trail you want to take. For example, if you’re going to Castle Rock after a rainy season, you’ll probably encounter several creek crossings, some of which may be impossible to pass without getting your feet wet. Think about bringing waterproof shoes or extra socks.

Not all trails are created equal. Though you might usually hike without trekking poles on flat land, it wouldn’t hurt to take them with you when encountering steep hills. It’s better to play it safe than sorry.

If you’re planning to go to the summit from the bottom of the mountain, will you be ready for colder temperatures, wind, or even rain? Often, the summit of Mount Diablo can have completely different weather than the bottom. 

A vital part of trip preparation is being ready for things to go differently than you’d planned. Many places on Mount Diablo don’t have cell phone service. For example, most of Morgan Territory Road doesn’t have it. Although this situation shouldn’t deter you from traveling out there, it is something you should consider.

What will you do if your car breaks down? If you’re going to be going out to a place without cell phone service, someone should always know where you are, especially if you’re alone. Before you leave, consider telling a family member where you’re going and what trails you plan on taking. 

One good way to learn more is to talk to more experienced hikers. Regardless if you are the one planning the route, you should be familiar with the 10 essentials. 

Save Mount Diablo also offers a free map of Mount Diablo. This is a great place to start planning your adventure!

Running across a single track on Mount Diablo

There are many wonderful trails on Mount Diablo. Trails are important because they maximize the amount of nature in any given area. If everyone walked wherever they wanted, all those beautiful flowers would likely be stomped on.

Protecting native plants is one reason why it’s important to stay on the trail. When a trail zigzags, you might see unofficial trails taking a shortcut. Give plants a chance to thrive and stay on the designated trail.

Staying on the official route is also a much safer option. You are far less likely to encounter snakes and ticks when you stay on the proper path!

However, there are situations where you may need to step off the trail to let a biker or another party pass. This scenario happens most often on single tracks. Use your best judgment, and avoid stepping on delicate vegetation.

As for camping, all camping on Mount Diablo is allowed in designated areas only. If you want to learn more about choosing camping spots in designated wildernesses, check out what Leave No Trace has to say

Clearing up debris at anderson ranch

On Mount Diablo, there is often a bathroom within reachable distance. Bathroom locations are something to consider when planning your trip. 

If you want to hike in a more isolated location, like Round Valley, are you prepared and willing to dig a cat hole to bury toilet paper and human waste? Remember, it takes a long time for this stuff to biodegrade. Learn how to dig a cat hole here!

Beyond human waste, make sure you clean up after your pets. 

Pack it in, pack it out

This simple rule often gets overlooked. Whatever you bring inside the park, you’ll need to bring out. Include items that you think are biodegradable, like tissues and leftover food. Banana peels can take over two years to decompose. Fruit skins should be packed out and properly disposed of. 

Sometimes tissues or small pieces of trash fall out of people’s backpacks. You can help preserve the mountain by bringing an extra garbage bag with you and picking up after others.

Graffiti all over rocks at castel rockMount Diablo looks very different now than it did 100 years ago. Some of these changes are natural. However, many of these changes have been caused by humans.

Rock City is one of Mount Diablo’s most popular attractions. The massive sandstone boulders have plenty of caves to climb in and out of while offering excellent views. But you don’t need to be there long before seeing hundreds of names carved into the fragile rock.

To preserve Mount Diablo’s beauty, leave what you find as you found it. Don’t carve into rocks or trees, and leave natural objects alone.

The only exception to this rule is trash. Always feel free to pack out any trash others may have left behind (the wildlife will thank you for this).

the flames after the fire

Always, always, always check the park’s rules before building campfires. Most of the time in the Diablo region, fires will only be allowed in barbecue pits or portable stoves, and during certain wildfire-prone times of the year, all fires may be prohibited. Collection of firewood is also strictly prohibited. 

Check park conditions here.


Keep wildlife wild

Never feed or interact with wild animals. It’s always better to observe wildlife from a distance. Getting close or chasing them may cause distress.

A key part of preparation is knowing which animals you might run into.

Generally, as long as you respect wildlife on Mount Diablo, you’ll be safe. Keep in mind that it is not uncommon to run into a rattlesnake. As long as you keep your distance, you will be safe.

Besides rattlesnakes, you should know how to check for ticks, and be aware of what to do in case you encounter a mountain lion.

Courtesy towards others ensures that everyone enjoys their experience outdoors. Here are a few things to know before you go out.

The sweet sounds of nature

Everyone connects with nature in separate ways. Please don’t bring external speakers with you when you go outdoors. Everyone has different music tastes, and many people want to tune into nature. If you want to listen to music, consider bringing earbuds.

Passing on the trails

From single-track trails to fire roads, there are many types of trails on Mount Diablo, each with different rules. Some are limited to hikers and runners, and some allow horses and bikers.

As a general rule of thumb, always let the faster party pass you. Stay to the side to let cyclists or runners pass you. If you’re hiking with a large group, you are probably moving slower than people hiking alone. Always make sure you let people pass to avoid unnecessary frustration.

If you are the one passing, you should call out to have your presence known. Keep in mind, if you are wearing earbuds, you won’t be able to hear people pass.

Park rules

Being considerate of other visitors also means being considerate of park rules. Make sure you follow park guidelines by maintaining social distancing rules, wearing a mask, only bringing pets to properly designated areas, etc.

© 1999 by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org. Used with permission.

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