Backpacker - - Skıll Set - –Nos­tal­gic in Ned­er­land For more in­for­ma­tion about re­duc­ing your im­pact, visit

“When I was young and hik­ing the Ap­palachian Trail, I came across a downed tree with a blaze on it. Since I thought it was only a mat­ter of time un­til a trail crew cleared the dead­fall, I flaked off the blazed bark and brought it home as a me­mento. Now it sits in my garage, a con­stant re­minder of a good, for­ma­tive time—and my lousy out­door ethics. What can I do to feel less guilty when I see it?”

Dear Nos­tal­gic,

When starry-eyed thruhik­ers say that ev­ery­one brings a piece of the trail home with them, they don’t mean it lit­er­ally. You know the code: Take noth­ing but pic­tures, leave noth­ing but foot­prints.

While the AT is pretty hard to miss in most places, in oth­ers, blazes are the only means of wayfind­ing, and they’re of­ten al­ready fewer and far­ther be­tween than most hik­ers would pre­fer. Chip­ping one off a tree is about as help­ful a move as up­root­ing a trail­head sign (al­beit eas­ier to fit in a toplid).

So next time you want to re­mem­ber your time on a trail, take a photo. Or, you know, do what those other thru-hik­ers prob­a­bly did and get a calf tat­too.


We haven’t heard about any mass lost-per­sons events in the AT’s his­tory, so your pil­fered blaze likely didn’t cause any large-scale dam­age. Still, you’ve got a debt to pay. Sign up for a vol­un­teer crew mark­ing the Con­ti­nen­tal Di­vide Trail (con­ti­nen­tal­divide­ blaze-the-CDT), which sorely needs it. Set­ting blazes is guar­an­teed to be a heal­ing ex­pe­ri­ence—as long as you re­sist the urge to re­mem­ber it by bring­ing one home.

Got a con­fes­sion? Email us at con­fes­[email protected]

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