99% of the time I pass nice people when I'm on the trail; the type of people who always move to the side and say "good morning" with a smile. But the other 1% out there are asshats; the people who cut every switchback and throw their trash on the top and generally cause annoyance in their wake. So while the vast majority of people out there are well-meaning tourists who are excited to be outside, some are just plain jerks.
After a weekend of the 1% making snide comments and blatantly disregarding the trails, I feel like a "trail etiquette" post is in order.
- Hikers going uphill have the right of way.
Lets be real - it's so much harder to go uphill. And while doing so, you might get in a groove or have a mental landmark you have to reach; it's so frustrating when you have to move to the side to let the downhill hikers go. When you're on cruise control going downhill, take a sec and let the uphill person pass you - they may decide not to, and to instead use the opportunity to take a break, but please let that be their choice. (Also, just as a general rule for myself, I always stop to let people pass regardless of what direction I'm going - I try so hard to be part of the 99%).
- Don't cut switchbacks or make shortcuts.
This one really irks me. The trail is made for a reason. Switchbacks might be annoying, but your directly-up-the-hill route is creating a path of erosion that can cause irreversible damage to the trail you're hiking. If you don't want to hike a 6 mile trail (which, you clearly don't if you're making your own path), pick a shorter one. Please don't erode my precious mountains.
- Pack it out (just follow Leave No Trace guidelines).
Leave No Trace (LNT) is basically a set of guidelines to reduce human impact; most of these are common sense, but people still find a way to ignore them. Pack it out is as simple as it sounds - if you carried it in with you, you'd better carry it out with you. Please don't litter the summits of mountains and the shores of alpine lakes with your lunch trash. And yes, this includes things like apple cores and banana peels. It's not good for animals to eat "non-native" foods!
- Don't pick the wildflowers!
Have you ever heard that saying, "take only pictures, leave only footprints" or something like that? This applies so much to the wildflowers. If one person does it, everybody does it, and then there's no wildflowers left at all. The 'gram is not worth it, I swear.
- Be respectful.
You'd think this would be easy, but it's one of the one's that people break the most. Be respectful, of the trail and of the people around you. A quick "hi" as you pass someone or moving off the trail when you stop to take a break are enough. Encouragement is great, especially on uphill slogs, but don't patronize the people you're talking to (or comment on how red their faces are!).
It doesn't take much to be a jerk, but it takes even less to be one of the good guys.