What did you do today? Me, I planted some rocks. You read that right. I volunteer with the Forest Service in the White Mountain National Forest. Today a group of us set out to find illegal campsites and naturalize them, as well as break up any fire rings we find.
So what does that mean and what does it have to do with planting rocks? While hiking in the White Mountain National Forest, you sometimes come across a spot where several people have illegally camped (you can camp in the backcountry, but there are rules like staying a certain distance from water sources). The area is clear of rocks and plants, the ground has been packed down. Unfortunately, the more people use it, the more the area is impacted, aka fewer plants grow and it looks less like forest and more like a tentsite. We want to “naturalize” the site, in other words make it look more like natural forest. We also want to make it less attractive as a site to camp.
Unfortunately, people often build fire rings in these sites. Again, we want to dismantle these once again in order to make the site less attractive to campers. (See principle 5: Minimize Fire Impacts on the leave no trace site for info on properly taking care of your fire).
Sadly, not everyone follow leave no trace principles. In this photo, someone had their fire on this downed log. 😦
We had to naturalize this MONSTER fire ring – more like a fire place. What do you do to naturalize a fire ring and a campsite? Well, first you remove the rocks from the fire ring, and take the ash to disburse in the woods. Then we took a few small saplings from elsewhere and replanted them in the ring itself, and throughout the impacted area. Then WE PLANTED SOME ROCKS. Basically, a nice tent site is a nice tent-sized flat area, devoid of rocks and plants. So we added saplings and rocks (take the rocks away from the fire ring, dig a hole in the middle of the tent site and “plant the rock”). Cover the area with leaves and other forest detritus to appear like it was always like that.
Here is a before and after of the giant fire ring we naturalized today.
I’m exhausted. Hiked roughly six miles (three in and three back out), carried a lot of rocks, dug a lot of holes, sprinkled a lot of leaves. Despite all this hard work, I was with a great group of people and we had a lot of fun.
Bonus pic of the trillium, which is blooming now: