In nature, you should always ‘leave no trace’

I can’t stand  graffiti. Something about it just screams immaturity. You really can’t go anywhere without writing your name all over everything?

So it pisses me off even more when people destroy nature with their sophomoric attempts at “art” or “marking territory.”

An example of graffiti we came across on a boulder while hiking in Angeles National Forest.

For starters, it’s not art. It’s crap. Especially in nature. The great outdoors is infinitely more beautiful than your dumb drawings.

Most importantly, it’s not your territory. Not even close. It’s everybody’s territory. When you tag a rock, or carve your name into an aspen tree, or practice any other similar display of stupidity, you are desecrating sacred places.

Nature is a temple, after all.

You have a responsibility to preserve our wilderness areas for future generations. Your children’s children should have the opportunity to hike the same pristine patch of woods you hiked 100 years ago.

Maybe we need to emphasize Leave No Trace ethics more in schools and in public. Leave No Trace is about as self-explanatory as possible. Basically, don’t leave a trace. How easy is that? So easy, even the idiots who tag nature could possibly grasp the philosophy.

I’d love to hear your ideas on how to prevent graffiti in nature. Personally, I’m losing all hope. I was on a hike yesterday up near San Francisco when I came across a really cool rock spire that was unfortunately full of graffiti. The idea of setting up a wildlife camera trap to catch the morons came to mind, but what’s the point?



  1. There seems to be a sense that people do not think about how their actions will affect other people. Most want to do what they want to do when they want to do it, not actually using the thing between their ears for much more than jumping on some bandwagon. If people see a place that is messy, they for the most part do not feel outrage but instead the right to be pigs also. Sad sad sad.

    1. You are absolutely right. The people who trash the woods seem to lack a forward thinking sense of the future. That piece of trash, or that terrible graffiti will eventually negatively affect another person’s experience in the woods, and this is so unfair. I really wish people would care more.

  2. How bout a sign that says- If you must leave your mark…pee freely … it;s what the animals do…. don;t let them be more human than you by trying to one up them with Spray Paint… nobody cares what gang you do…..

    Or more succinctly…. When In Rome…..’s so sad..
    Hey did I miss the field trip? I have a lot of catching up to do…. and I will just you wait… not by your computer or might take me a little while..just saying…
    You didn;t go without me ….did you???

    1. Hey, that’s not bad idea. They really are a bunch of jerks, though. My thinking has always been that you would never tag a holy place such a church or temple, so why would you even think about tagging nature? Why is there a significant disconnection there? Maybe I’m just a big tree hugger who puts too much thought into it?

      Oh yeah! Field trip! We’ll need more gas money if we’re driving that monster bus.

      Did you decide if you’re taking the kids out camping solo, or what?

      1. SOL…. I kinda like them…it was a lot of work to bring the little..loves into the world… hate to waste all that effort leaving them there for any ol body to pick up… But yes I am going to do it… I think ..I soooo want to… we had a bit of a cold snap here the high yesterday was 66… I am actually loving it because this, to me is Spring..heck it would snow in June in Colorado…true story… but I don;t wanna hear them bitch they are cold at night.. ok..I don;t want to be freezing either and I have noticed less tolerance of cold as I … ahem..age. so I am thinking end of April…early May will be perfect. I dunno.
        though.. Lauren counts as an adult but I don;t think she has ever been camping….. and I have never been on my own..without ya know..a man… 🙄 I might con my brother into taking us….that won;t be a hard sell so I thinking it may be the answer – besides he has a tent. Guapman…Dude…are you taking TMWGITU and gonna give it a go this year? you SHOULD! Maybe I should add a PayPal donate button to my blog for gas money? or.. I can go get “your name” tattooed on my ass – actually Lauren decided we could use a sharpie…go to a bar find a rich drunk guy and bet him I have his name ( I bet $?? I have your name tattooed on my ass…).how much you think we will need?

        I am a tree hugger… just because I grew up in Colorado so no I don;t think you over think it… if nobody thought like that…then what would the world be? although I am having second thoughts even on peeing cause yeah…a holy place? totally wouldn;t pee on someone’s shrine but still…. as long as you don;t eat asparagus …it would satisfy the territorial urge yet not be offensive to others who come through…..

  3. Good post. I agree with Lizzie. Do as the animals do.

    When I was in college I took a class in feminist theology (hear me out) and one of the had an anecdote about a woman who described her “Beer Can Theory.” She said the gorgeous woods behind her house where she’d walk every weekend would be trashed from the kids partying in there the night before. Beer cans, butts, trash everywhere. She felt like she had to zigzag everywhere on her walks with a bag to do as much as she could. Then she realized it was enough, you can make a difference by picking up the beer cans in your path.

    1. Interesting! This is the first I’ve heard of the “Beer Can Theory.” Any little bit always helps. It would be nice if the people littering would get a clue after they saw that their trash was picked up. Sadly, it usually just gives them another opportunity to trash the place even more.

  4. Sad thing is, at some point these people will be adults, and something they love will be desecrated in some way.
    Wonder if they’ll make the connection then…

    1. You would hope so. Though there is never any guarantee. It’s possible the cycle would only repeat itself. Some people never learn, you know?

  5. I think we should kill them and leave no trace…

    Seriously, I agree with you. It’s a vile affront to all that is sacred. I feel nature is divine, and by that I mean, I believe it to be as holy as scripture – something to draw us closer to God. I know, heavy.

  6. Human nature unfortunately. I have seen graffiti carved into walls of ancient structures and natural places from hundreds and even thousands of years ago. It seems time has no bearing on idiocy! I also hate it when people leave garbage in otherwise pristine locations.

    1. I can’t stand the garbage factor either! It drives me crazy. Talk about major disrespect for the great outdoors. And who the hell would tag an ancient structure?! Idiots.

      1. It is a sad statement of their intelligence indeed. As for rubbish how hard is it to take it out with you…they brought it in without any hassle!

  7. I never understood this or carving your initials into trees. Why is it necessary? There are some forms of graffiti in cities that I enjoy, but most of the time, the art has been sanctioned by the city. I don’t think mother nature sanctions any type of graffiti. Makes me sick.

    1. Graffiti can be art in some very well-defined instances. For example, I find myself spacing out looking at all the graffiti when freight trains roll by. And we’ve all seen some amazing graffiti work by artists in big cities, sanctioned or otherwise. I think it’s the knuckleheads who have no artistic talent and no respect for anything at all who mess it up for everyone else.

  8. Your post and all the comments really hit home. It’s truly terrible than anyone would feel then need to destroy nature’s beauty with graffiti or trash. If only people would think before they acted and take responsibility for one’s actions.

      1. it’s arther an oddity to me that one would even have to think about it – as in weigh the pros and cons – make a decision…? what;s to decide – therefore no thought needed… respect and reverence…given

  9. Sigh….I understand your frustration.
    I’ve known some very creative, expressive, and talented graffiti artists and I seriously doubt any of them would approve of this. It’s not art, it’s ignorance.
    I did once come across some pretty cool natural art…while hiking I found a very tiny miniature village someone had created near a stream using twigs, leaves, pebbles, and other natural elements. The entire thing measured no more than a square foot. There were 3 little huts, pebble-lined pathways, a tiny ‘shrine’ constructed in the center, and the word ‘smile’ scratched into the dirt. It was nice to stop, have a snack, and enjoy it especially knowing it must have recently been done and that with the next rainfall the ‘art’ would be erased and the elements used would be returned to nature. This kind of ‘trace left’ behind I can deal with.

    1. Like I was telling TBM in the comment above, I actually do enjoy insanely good, artistic graffiti. Some of the stuff you see in cities and on trains is amazing. Here in Southern California, though, we are exposed to a lot of crap gang graffiti. And in some places, it’s everywhere!

      Now I would enjoy the miniature village you described. Stuff like that is actually enjoyable because (1) it has minimal impact on the environment, (2), it’s creative, and (3) it will be gone by tomorrow. I’ve seen some really interesting, almost artistic stacks of rocks out in the woods that weren’t cairns.

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