A few weeks ago, it was brought to our attention that unidentified hikers along the North Loop trail in Mt. Charleston Wilderness had marked dozens of trees with orange paint. The selfish and irresponsible acts shocked and confused many of us in the outdoor community of Southern Nevada. Who would deface so many trees along a popular trail in the Spring Mountains? What was the motive to splash orange paint and arrows on so many trees?
Orange paint littered pine trees along North Loop (Mt Charleston Wilderness/photo by Anne Charbonneau)
The most plausible theory is that these are the acts of hikers who wanted to mark the trail and be able to find a route once the trail is full of snow. A perceived navigation problem that actually is not a problem at all. Here's why.
GPS Devices and Apps
There are many GPS devices one can purchase for under $100 that will help you find a trail that may be obstructed and not clearly visible. Programming your GPS with waypoints can help you map an area and find trails at a later time. Whether it's snow or overgrowth, a GPS device can help you find your way in and out of Wilderness safely and accurately.
From your smart device, you can also download the Avenza PDFMaps app. This allows the user to download pdf maps of areas of interest in Nevada and elsewhere. The app continues to track your location even if you are in airplane mode or out of service. Which is pretty essential in the back-country.
Purchase a Map
Many visitor centers and outposts carry topographic maps of recreation and Wilderness areas. A smart hiker will make sure to be prepared with the necessary mapping of the areas he or she wishes to explore. Friends worked for over a year collecting coordinates of hikes within the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area to create the new Trail Map. Our map is available at the Corn Creek Station (in the Desert National Wildlife Refuge), and the visitors centers at the Red Rock National Conservation Area and the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area. You can also purchase maps from us directly on our website or from us in person at any one of our events or appearances.
Practice Leave No Trace
Volunteers have to clean up the litter left on our public lands. (Tule Springs National Monument/Grace Larsen)
Most importantly, think about conservation. The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics offers an online awareness course. When practicing leave no trace, consideration is given to nature, fellow recreationists and wildlife. Whomever painted these trees undoubtedly killed insects that use the trees for habitat, disturbed birds and other animals that eat insects from those trees, damaged the trees themselves, and upset fellow hikers who hike in that area. Sometimes simple misguided actions can make a large negative impact, if we are not mindful of them. As you recreate, please keep in mind the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace. We all want our lands to be well taken care of for future generations to enjoy what we enjoy. Together, we can ensure this is a reality for them.
"We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children."
- Native American Proverb
We would like to thank Ron LaPointe who volunteered his time to clean up these paint markings on trees. He diligently spent several days identifying and restoring trees along North Loop this week. Kudos to Ron and all of our awesome volunteers. You guys are the engine that keeps our mission moving forward.