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You say “trail” I say “durable surfaces.”

Not really. I say “trail” too! But our friends at Leave No Trace make an important distinction in #2 of their 7 principles of Leave No Trace which states, “Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces.”

They say, “The goal of backcountry travel is to move through the backcountry while avoiding damage to the land. Understanding how travel causes impacts is necessary to accomplish this goal.”

What is durable and what is not

You can use your common sense to determine what is and isn’t a durable surface. IS: that paved path that becomes a bridge going over that creek. ISN’T: that perfectly untouched meadow with thousands of wildflowers.

IS: that campsite with well worn paths leading to the campfire pit clearly distinguished by the fire-scarred rocks. ISN’T: ANY place you think might be good place to camp within 200 feet of a lake, river, water source.

Good campsites are found, not made

Another great motto by LNT is, “Good campsites are found, not made.” Chances are that you’re not the first one to discover that amazing view of the valley or river! Unless you’re in Patagonia, the Alaskan interior or Antarctica, someone has probably enjoyed the same view and camped close by. And you’re job isn’t to blaze a new path, it’s to find who blazed the last one and basically follow suit.

Now, as I say in the video, don’t go crazy! Use your common sense. I’m not saying that exploring isn’t important and that people shouldn’t do it more, especially these days.

Wonder is wandering

Wonder is about wandering. Wonder is about finding your path. It’s very important to navigate new turf, carefully observe your surroundings and walk in areas that aren’t generally walked on.

But it’s your absolute responsibility to limit your impact on the planet. And that means not cutting switchbacks, staying on the trail when at all possible and being ever conscious of how your footprints need to be as light as possible.

Conscious of our Footprint

Ted Mattison, also known as Ranger Ted, is a Certified California Naturalist, trained in Wilderness First Aid, and has explored, hiked, canoed and kayaked extensively from his home state of Minnesota to Alaska, Washington and California. He’s a graduate of Oberlin College and a former Social Studies teacher. Ted has been a working actor, director, producer and acting teacher in Los Angeles for 25 years. He is the founder of Wonder Outside with Ranger Ted and lives in Huntington Beach with his wife and two daughters. For more info please visit


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