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Troop 849
Manhattan Beach, CA
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Last Updated:
  January 2, 2007

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General | First Hike | Weekend Checklist | Equipment Guide | First Aid Kit | Prohibited Items | Trail Etiquette

Trail Etiquette

The Hiking chapter of the Boy Scout Handbook describes how to have a fun and safe hiking experience. Here are some key things to keep in mind.

General things

Respect wildlife. Leave flowers and plants for others to enjoy.

Treat all trail users with respect and courtesy.

Respect private property and the privacy of people living along the trail. (Note: If you see someone else making a pit stop and they did not get out of sight, turn your back. Do not stare at them. In general, this is much more important if a woman is involved. This is a very important etiquette item!)

Don't cut switchbacks. It can take as much as 80 person-hours to rebuild a switchback. Many of them have been rebuilt by Troop 849 Eagle projects. Almost all work done on trails in the local mountains is done by volunteers from Scouts or the Sierra Club.

Do not create new trails parallel to the original one. Creating your own trail or cutting switchbacks creates erosion, damages habitat and causes new trails which can't be maintained. If you must walk off the trail for whatever reason, try to walk on rocks. Keeping a little mud off your boots is not a good reason to walk off the trail.

No running. It is very dangerous for you and for others.

Leave no trace. And pack out your litter.

Right-of-way rules

Do give other people the right-of-way. Step aside and let oncoming people through. (There is a proper trail etiquette that dictates who has the right-of-way, but it is much easier, and nicer, to give everyone else the right-of-way.)

Do not hold up faster people coming up from behind. Let them pass by stepping off the trail. Your action will be much appreciated, and you would want the same consideration.

When you step off the trail to let someone pass, choose the uphill side if there is one. That way you if you accidentally get bumped you won't go sliding downhill. Also, it is easier on the trail as the downhill side is easily damaged.

Do not pass without permission. If your hiking group is faster, patiently wait for the party ahead of you to allow you to pass. Announce yourself if necessary.

Horses have the right-of-way. They may not be accustomed to people with backpacks and may tend to shy away from these "big strange animals". (Some horses, I'm told, think we are Martians. Go figure.) Try to get off of the trail by about 20 feet, with everyone on the same side of the trail. Or ask the rider for instructions since he knows the horse's temperament. You can talk softly but stand still. Keep facing them as they pass so the backpacks are partially hidden. Do not make any rapid movements as a spooked horse in tight quarters can be very dangerous!

Do not block the trail or path. Be especially mindful of this when taking a rest break.

Troop 849 procedures

No one passes the pathfinder. The "pathfinder", or trail leader, is a Scout who takes the lead. (Once in a while an adult will be the pathfinder but this is not very common.) The pathfinders' job is lead the group and keep them together. To do this he must: 1) set a pace that is reasonable for everyone, 2) stop at all trail junctions, 3) stop at stream crossings, 4) stop and wait whenever the trail sweep has not been seen for 5 minutes, and 5) stop at the designated time for the next rest stop. Anyone can lead the troop on a hike. Be sure to volunteer.

Stop at all trail junctions. This is for the safety of the group as well as yourself. If you don't stop and the rest of the group goes the other way, guess who is lost. You are, even if you are the only one to go the correct way! Wait at trail junctions until the whole group arrives and the Hikemaster says it is ok to proceed.

At stream crossings, proceed one at a time. Unbuckle your waistband and chest strap so you can get out of the pack easily if you fall in the water. Do not go bare foot at stream crossings. Injured feet may ruin your entire hiking trip. Be mindful of slippery and unstable rocks and logs. If the person ahead of you finds a good path to cross, follow his lead. Once you cross, wait on the other side out of the way of others. Do not leave until everyone is across.

Stay behind the person in front of you by at least 10 feet. This is minimum spacing, especially when you have a slow person with others stacked up behind. You need this spacing to keep from running over a person that trips, stumbles, or comes across a snake. You wouldn't want to be so close that you push him into a rattle snake! This is the hardest rule of all because it is natural to want to walk close behind.

When making a pit stop, leave your pack next to the trail, but not on it. Tell someone before leaving the trail unless it's "urgent". That person should wait there for you. Take your pit stop out of sight if possible, but stay within voice communication distance in case you need help.

No one gets behind the trail sweep. He is always last and stops for any person having difficulty. The Hikemaster is generally the trail sweep, although he may designate another adult.

And finally, some Do's

DO kick rocks off the trail. (Gently of course.) This is something that has to be done as part of general trail maintenance, so it is nice to help.

DO break off branches that are in the way for normal trail walking. This again is something that has to be done as part of general trail maintenance, so it is nice to help.

DO move fallen branches out of the way. Once again this is something that has to be done as part of general trail maintenance.

DO pick up trash you see on the trail.

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