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After Outback incidents and poop-fire, event will teach ‘Leave no Trace’ ethics

Posted by on October 8th, 2015 at 12:12 pm

packtrash

Proper pack-out-your-trash technique.
(Photo: Jocelyn Gaudi/Team Komorebi)

This past summer as bikepacking reached new heights of popularity, it also faced its first major PR crisis.

It started as a relatively innocent post on VeloDirt.com about the Oregon Outback. Velo Dirt’s Donnie Kolb (the man responsible for popularizing the off-road route that runs 375 miles from Klamath Falls to the Columbia River Gorge) wrote a headline that stunned adventure cycling fans: The Death of the Oregon Outback.

Kolb heard that trash and human waste had been left at various campsites along the route and the locals were not happy about it. Kolb was understandably upset. “If you can’t follow Leave No Trace ethics,” he wrote, “if you can’t show respect to the folks who live on this route, and you can’t respect the wild nature you ride through, then stay home.”

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Kolb’s post spread like wildfire. Then, just a month later, an actual wildfire spread. A guy cycling on dirt roads in Idaho’s backcountry relieved himself then lit the toilet paper on fire. That incident went viral thanks to embarrassing headlines like “Pooping cyclist starts wildfire.”

cathole

Do you know how to dig a cathole?
(Photo: Jocelyn Gaudi/Team Komorebi)

It’s with these unfortunate incidents in mind that we’ve decided to organize on a free event to raise awareness about how to bike in the woods without making an impact. Check the event flyer and description below:

LeaveNoTraceClinic

Don’t crap where you eat. A simple concept.

Learn from the experts of Mountain Shop, BikePortland.org, Limberlost, Komorebi, and VeloDirt; do hands-on practice and see demonstrations of proper camp set-up, waste disposal, earth-friendly riding techniques, and more. Trod lightly and clean up after yourself. Listen. Look around. Let the countryside leave its mark on you rather than your mark staining it.

A free clinic on the principles of leave no trace as it applies to camping with your bicycle.

Come and find out what a cathole is and why you should learn how to dig one. Please consider joining us and these other fine folks at Mountain Shop on Sandy Blvd. (1510 NE 37th) at 6:00 pm on October 15th (next Thursday). RSVP and tell your friends to come via Facebook.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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zircAlan 1.0Lester BurnhamAlan 1.0Anne Dufay Recent comment authors
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Adam
Subscriber

This is absolutely the right way to go. Educate people instead of banning cycling outright.

Alan 1.0
Subscriber

Agreed this education is for the good, but there’s no “instead of.” The two things are independent of each other. The land owner can, and may yet, close his land despite the education effort. I hope he doesn’t but I wouldn’t blame him if he did.

The foolishness of burning toilet paper is not new (hint: despite the URL, Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics says it is NOT OK). I’ve heard of several such cases which have resulted in wildfires. Here is one from 1985 where a physician, along with three other recent Harvard grads, if I recall correctly, started a fire in the Wenatchee National Forest. They should have known better. There was talk about $500K restitution at the time; I think he got lucky and only paid $128,000.

I do expect wilderness users to learn basic things like The Mountaineer’s Ten Essentials that Chris mentions below (or similar “24-hour pack” ideas), and simple “Leave No Trace” ethics such as “take only memories, leave only footprints” (attributed to Chief Seattle). Such info is so common and widespread that ignorance is not a viable excuse.

Mark
Guest
Mark

Yeah, poo gate was pretty fun to hear about on a few cycling podcasts. You know..the one where a person left a present for their host who allowed them to stay in their barn while it rained? Seems like many don’t know the “cat” method. Is it that hard to bury your poo and TP so that someone else doesn’t find it?

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Apparently, unleashing hordes of urban hipsters into the wilderness has bad outcomes. I don’t want to imagine how many of these folks neglected to bring the ten essentials. They’re lucky that poor poop management was the only negative outcome this year.

Lester Burnham
Guest
Lester Burnham

However PBR was in abundant supply.

Scott H
Guest
Scott H

I don’t expect everyone to be an expert on leave no trace practices, but where was the common courtesy. You gotta safely assume that someone who literally sh*t in the yard of the nice people who opened up their barn to weary travelers, is just an all around terrible person who shouldn’t be allowed to ever participate ever again.

Mixtieme
Guest
Mixtieme

I do expect experts because there are only 7 simple, common sense, basic respect principals to remember. My 11 yr old brother can recite them.

Alan 1.0
Subscriber

Could you post those seven principles or a link to them? I’m not disagreeing, just curious which codification you are referring to. TIA!

zirc
Guest
zirc
Adam
Guest
Adam

Jonathon et al – Any thoughts on a video/ video series from the event for those that can’t make this or are from out of the area? Could be a simple DIY YouTube video, or with backing from visitor bureau’s, etc. that promote bike packing and recreational tourism in general it could serve as another “know before you go” resource.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

“Know before you go” is a great line. Thank you for a chuckle.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

Ex-lax protein bars.

longgone
Guest
longgone

Really?

Mike Quiglery
Guest
Mike Quiglery

It’s okay to burn your TP, but you have to burn it on a non-combustible surface, i.e. rocks, and wait till the last spark goes out. I’ve been doing it for over 50 years. Problem is, people today are clueless, stressed, and too much in a hurry.

Alan 1.0
Guest
Alan 1.0

Yes, it can be done safely but I don’t think it’s a good practice to teach. If I recall correctly, in that Wenatchee NF fire I mentioned, they were burning their TP in a non-combustable location (possibly in the trail) but an unexpected gust of wind blew the burning tissue into a pine branch. All too easy to happen, and totally preventable by simply not burning.

Todd Hudson
Guest
Todd Hudson

Calling it an “incident” is somewhat downplaying. They left such a mess behind in Silver Lake that the town responded by passing a no-camping ordinance.

Jason Britton
Guest

Todd, who told you that the town passed the ban because of the Outback riders?

Fred
Guest
Fred

From the Oregon Backpacking site: “Leaving the park in Silver Lake in enough disrepair that the city passed a new ordinance banning camping”

Jason Britton
Guest

Ah yeah, that. When we went through a couple of weeks later the response we received was much different. There were no signs about a ban at the park, the owner of the barn isn’t a pastor, and the locals were really happy to see us. There have been a lot of rumors and half truths surrounding this whole thing so it’ll be nice to maybe put that behind us and talk about how to be better stewards going forward.

Anne Dufay
Guest
Anne Dufay

The most effective prevention is a group culture that routinely shares education and resources – so that well-meaning folks have a decent chance to understand what they need to do. The information about “leave no trace” should be as thoroughly disseminated and supported by back-country bike groups, as it is by back-country equine groups. This post seems like a great step in that direction, to me.