Blog Archives

Responsible Photography & Hiking

I am taking some time to talk about ethical photography and hiking. I have been wanting to write this for a while but just haven’t had time (hence the lack of updates recently). I was spurred on by seeing a post on Instgram. It was a photo of Falling Springs Falls in Virginia. The photographer and climbed down to the bottom of the falls for the shot and it was being shared on various accounts (the main Virginia Tourism site for one). It irked me. It is illegal to hike to the bottom and fines are involved if caught. Do people get caught? Maybe. Probably not. And maybe they don’t care about the fines but there are reasons some areas are closed off. And by sharing those photos, it encourages others to climb to the bottom.

Now, in all honestly, I have passed a few lines that said, “stay back”. I have certainly hiked off trail but usually where allowed. But when signs say, “This is illegal and you will be fined.” I respect that. Maybe I’m a noob but if all photographers ignored those signs there would be trails where there shouldn’t be and vegetation would start to fade away. I believe in ethical photography. That means respecting laws. It means staying your distance away from animals and wildlife. It means not disturbing nature and following Leave No Trace.

Speaking of Leave No Trace… apparently people are now leaving painted golf balls on trails. It started with painted rocks. Now they have progressed to golf balls. This is from the blog “A Fork in the Road” by Jim Fetig.

This is a big no-no. If you see these, please pack them out. This is from the Appalachian Trail of all places. No rocks, no balls, no painted anything should be left on trails. So many places are being destroyed, we need to be ethical hikers as well and not introduce things that aren’t native to where we are hiking. And no, painted rocks are not native. I have packed out more than one of those. If you want to paint rocks and leave them around your neighborhood, that’s fine. I think that is totally different than Shenandoah National Park.

What do you think? Do you practice responsible hiking, Leave No Trace and ethical photography?

Poor Behavior in Parks/Nature

I am so disgusted by the behavior people exhibit in parks or while out enjoying nature. I can’t say whether it is getting worse but my gut says it is. This past weekend I saw a few instances of people acting badly. It also annoys me when I see trash everywhere.

There are rules in parks for a reason. I know, I know… your dog is the best behaved dog in the world. It is “friendly” and it can be off the leash even though park rules state, clearly, numerous times, dogs need to be on a leash.  Two incidents annoyed me this past weekend. The first was a large dog, while cute, who growled at me as I passed it. It was not on a leash. I try not to say anything because I hate being “that” person but when your dog growls at someone – put it on a leash. End of story.

Then there was the woman who was calling to her dog. Due to the previous situation I mentioned to her that dogs need to be on a leash. She said, “He is!” and continued to call.  Sure, the dog had a leash but she wasn’t holding it.  She continued to scream at her dog. I walked by and noticed the leash was wedged between rocks. The dog couldn’t move. I freed him and mentioned, “You would realized this if you were holding the leash.”  I got called names because of course I did. People aren’t going to take responsibility for themselves.

The last issue with dogs was one that flew by me so fast that it 1 – scared me and 2 – came incredibly close to just ramming me in the back of my knee. I dreaded the thought of what would have happened if it hit me in the back of my knee. It would have surely re-injured me and it would have been a VERY long walk back to the car.  These people repeatedly called to their dog who never once responded.

People – I love dogs. I truly do. I miss having a dog but the reasons are many that you need to keep control of your dog in a park. Not only can it be dangerous for the dog but you put others in danger as well. What if that dog had hit me, knocked me over, etc.? That particular dog ended up on the Cedar Run water slide and slid, unwillingly, down into the water. I heard the owners say, “It’s never swam before.” It couldn’t get out of the pool. The owner had to go down and attempt to pull it out but also fell into the pool. People laughed but a leash would have prevented all of that.

I love that people want to be in nature and see the beautiful sights in Virginia (and elsewhere). But please take just a few moments to learn trail etiquette.  Not once did someone step out of the way to let me pass while I was headed uphill. I had to move for every single person. That’s pretty selfish. Generally those going uphill have right of way. REI has a great article on this so I won’t repeat their good advice.

At one of the waterfalls there was a snake on a log. Water snakes often lay in the sun around water. It is a good idea to just keep an eye out for them. Well, these two women really wanted to get on that log. So one took a large rock and chucked it at the small snake. If that rock had landed on the snake I’m quite sure it would have killed it or badly injured it. I was a little far away so couldn’t say something. Your selfie isn’t important. Sorry. It just isn’t. A few minutes later she almost fell backwards off a large boulder – again – trying to get a selfie. Stop. Respect the wildlife that lives where you are hiking. Don’t kill snakes. Don’t remove flowers. Don’t stones and large rocks.

White Oak Canyon / Cedar Run Hike

The innocent snake just getting some sun

Leave No Trace
For all that is good in this world – clean up after yourself. Leaving trash laying around, on the ground, in the picnic areas is unacceptable. You take it in. You take it out. Many of us carry extra bags so that we can pick up trash as we go. Yes, sometimes the wind comes up and may blow something and you can’t get to it. That’s far different than leaving piles of trash. The photo below is an example of trash left by visitors to Shenandoah National Park (photo credit: Wanda Kidd).  Not only can this attract bears (which is bad for bears) but just shows how little regard people have for this amazing place we call earth.


Photo credit: Wanda Kidd

This goes for people fishing as well. Clean up your bait containers. Remove your hooks. If your line gets caught – try to take it down. Or better yet, be more responsible on how and where you cast your line. Not very long ago my son and I participated in a clean up at a reservoir near my house. The amount of trash was mind blowing.


This is what bottles look like when they fall into the water

I know I probably sound like a mean person, right? Complainer? Whiner? I honestly don’t care because our parks are meant to be a place of enjoyment… a place to go to get away from stresses in our lives and enjoy the natural beauty of the world. That is difficult when people don’t follow rules or pick up after themselves.

Cleaning Up Beaverdam Reservoir


This past Saturday my son and I were thrilled to go and volunteer our time cleaning up Beaverdam Reservoir in Ashburn, VA. This is one of my favorite places to go (or was).  Right now it is drained in preparation for an upgrade to the damn and to create a great park with 8 miles of trails. A local high school girl has started this initiative to get it cleaned up before they let the water back into the reservoir.


My favorite place to take sunset photos


I was amazed at just how much trash was laying around. I guess I shouldn’t be but I know others think differently than me. I was especially angered by the amount of glass. I guess people take their kayak or boat out into the reservoir and then just toss their glass bottles overboard. Or they are located along the banks of the reservoir and float out. And then someone hits them and they break. It was difficult to pick up all of the pieces.  I noticed the most trash at the fishing locations. I guess it is hard for fishermen to take their trash with them when they leave.

I was very proud of my son who was excited to be there to clean. It isn’t every day an 11 year old boy would be happy with that task. I didn’t even care that he was covered in mud from head to toe by the end of our 2 hour shift. He was responsible for bringing in the biggest items.


All of the large items my son found and brought in from the reservoir


It certainly was tough work dragging the trash bags all over the reservoir. The glass bottles caused them to get heavy quickly. Also, cans and plastic bottles would be full of sand which added to the weight (Work out of the day!).  Items my son found were: Boots, two chairs, a part of an engine, a very large pipe (see photo), and other metal items. He rolled in the tire as well.

I felt like I needed to be there longer. I know we only made a small dent but I guess I could also go back on my own and walk the trails. I’m very excited for the future park. I will be happy to get there and take more sunset photos and enjoy the 8 miles of trails. Until then we’ll See Ya at the Resi!

Smokers and Nature

Let me get this out of the way right now: I hate smoking. I hate the smell. I hate it when I have to walk through it. I hate how someone smells after they smoke. I could go on but you get the drift. I understand it is everyone’s right to ruin their lungs and pass secondhand smoke on to everyone else. I used to teach salsa dancing every week in a club with smoking. I truly believe that the smoke was one of the factors in the asthma I suffer from today.

I love nature. Mountains. Streams. Trees. Animals and birds. All of it. I can’t get enough of it. And I don’t understand why smokers don’t. I see the remains of them in nature all of the time. Just last week when I hiked to Raven Rocks Overlook there on the ground was a cigarette butt. My first thought was how hard was it for them to hike to that point because it had to have been taxing on the lungs. It isn’t an easy hike. My second thought was, “JERK!” Ok. So you feel the need to sit and view nature’s beauty by having a cigarette. It relaxes you? It calms you? But then you have to leave your trash there? I don’t get it.

Earlier this summer my son and I went tubing at Shenandoah River State Park. There were only 5 of us who went on the trip. There were No Smoking signs everywhere in the park. It is a “Carry In – Carry Out” park. That means no trash. Yet one of the men going tubing was smoking. He had to smoke on the way to the transport vehicle which meant my son and I had to walk through it. I found it very rude. I was also annoyed that the guy that was going to drive us didn’t speak up and ask him to 1) put it out and 2) take his cigarette trash with him. He didn’t. He threw it on the ground. My son didn’t want me to make a fuss so I didn’t. But I was annoyed.

I have family members that smoke. I have friends who smoke. I don’t hate them. I hate the habit. I hate that it makes people leave trash everywhere because they are either too lazy or too inconvenienced to put their butts in the appropriate places. Go ahead. Smoke in your car. Do not throw your butt out the window. I have seen many land and still be lit. I’m sure this practice has been the cause of more than one forest fire.

I don’t see many speaking up against this. But I am. Even though not one soul reads this blog I am still saying something in case it gets found via Google. Stop smoking in nature! Or if you do, take your cigarette trash with you OUT of the park, trail, hike, rocks, etc.

There is no purpose to going out and enjoying nature just to trash it with cigarettes. Be responsible, please! And don’t even get me started on beer bottles….