Recreate Responsibly: Camping Edition

Ahhh sweet summertime.  One of our favorite things to do in the summer is to camp.  There’s nothing better than loading up all of the gear for some time in the woods, in the mountains, or by the water.  Whether you are an experienced camper or are trying it for the first time, it’s never a bad idea to remind ourselves how to be a responsible and respectful camper.  From setting up a campfire to chatting with our friends and family under the stars, we’re a part of the natural environment around us.  The great people at have put together some tips and reminders on how to make the most of your time in the woods.

We’ve highlighted our favorite four tips below, and you can read them all here:

Are you camping this summer?  Where ya going?

Leave NO Trace

What does that mean? Why is it important?


Imagine your childhood. Think about when you would play outside for hours on end. Maybe your favorite camping trip. Your favorite hiking trail. Or your favorite park to visit.


We never really had to (or currently have to) think or worry about the wilderness disappearing — it is always there when we want to go outdoors. This is now, however, a worry that we have for our future generations. “Leave No Trace” quite literally means that if you go outdoors, you need to aim to leave no trace of you being there. One common misconception that we tend to think is “well I am just one person and cannot make a difference.” The problem is that when everyone has that mentality, then it actually does make a big difference. If we can shift this mentality to “I will do my part to leave no trace”, then this will also make a huge POSITIVE difference.


The Seven Principles


(1) Plan ahead and Prepare

  • Research the regulations for where you are planning to visit. Most give specific instructions for what you can bring, where you can go, or how long you can stay.
  • Minimize waste by repackaging your food beforehand.
  • If backpacking, consider taking a lightweight backpack stove for one pot meals instead of using a fire to Leave No Trace. One pot meals and light snacks create the least amount of waste, so take that into consideration when planning out your trip.

(2) Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

  • This means to travel on designated trails or camp on where vegetation is absent such as: designated campsites, rock, gravel, sand, dry grasses or snow. The goal is to minimize the damage as much as possible by not altering the natural areas. Keep the sites small and if you move rocks or twigs to camp, make sure to move them back before you leave.
  • Make sure to camp at least 200 ft from a water source, such as lakes, ponds, streams, or rivers.
  • Stay on designated trails! If you are traveling with a group, make sure to walk single file through the trails and not disturb the unmarked areas. This also includes when it is muddy! It is important not to expand the trail, so if need be, walk through the mud.

(3) Dispose of Waste Properly

  • If you brought it in, you NEED to bring it out. This means trash, leftover food, or litter. I know that oftentimes we might think that throwing out an apple core or orange peel is okay because it’s “natural” and will decompose, but it is actually dangerous to wildlife because that will attract them to places they usually might not go (such as campsites) or food they do not eat in the wild. A raccoon’s diet does not consist of leftover BBQ and baked beans, but when it’s tossed on the ground, they will begin sticking around the area because they know there will be food that they do not need to hunt for.
  • Yes.. human waste does fall into this category. If you can, use the facilities whenever possible, but we understand that sometimes you will not have the luxury of using a toilet when you’re 5 miles deep in a trail. In this case, you will want to make a cathole at least 200ft from a water source, campsite, or trails to avoid contaminating the water and possibly spreading diseases. This entails digging about a 6″x 6″ hole, doing your business, and covering it back up with the original soil.
  • Make sure to bring a bag of some sort to pack out the toilet paper or any hygiene products you might have used or bury it in the cathole if biodegradeable.
  • This also applies to your pet’s droppings. Other animals eat dog poo, which exposes them to bacteria.
  • When washing dishes or yourself, make sure to be 200ft away from a water source and use the least amount of biodegradable soap as possible. When you are done washing your dishes, scatter the water so that it does not all accumulate in one spot. Even though the soap is biodegradable, it is still a foreign substance to that area.

(4) Leave What You Find

  • I know a leaf, rock, or flower might be beautiful or very unique, but it is important to leave the natural, cultural, and historic structures, objects or artifacts. You might think that by taking one or two wouldn’t make a difference, but if everyone who visited that area had the same mindset, then that one or two flowers actually turns into 20 to 30 being picked or taken. It is also illegal to take natural objects in most protected places.
  • It is also VERY important not to introduce/transport non-native species. This typically results in an invasive species that will take over the native area because it has no natural predators. Kudzu, Privet, and some species of honeysuckle are invasives that were introduced to be used as an ornamental and to reduce soil erosion, but they took off spreading like wild fire. Some species from East Tennessee are not native to West Tennessee, so it is important not to take or introduce any species to the wild or even your home.
  • Take pictures instead of taking them.
  • Do not. Do not. Do not mark on trees.

(5) Minimize Campfire Impacts

  • Try to switch to a lightweight stove for cooking instead of a campfire.
  • If you do build a campfire, remember, a true Leave No Trace campfire should leave no evidence. So make sure you make a small fire, using dead or down wood that can be broken. If there is a fire ring established, make sure to use it.
  • “Buy it where you burn it.” You should buy firewood at a local source or gather it where it is allowed. You should NOT bring any from your home or anywhere that is not the area that you are camping.
  • Know the fire restrictions in the area you are at and the time of year you are planning on going.

(6) Respect Wildlife

  • Observe wildlife from a distance and stay quiet while observing.
  • Do not touch or feed wildlife. If you come across a wounded or sick animal, you need to notify a ranger or game warden, but do not tend to it yourself.
  • Do NOT toss your food scraps. This attracts wildlife to areas, which will lead to them relying on non-native food and also creating a false sense that human interactions are safe.
  • When you are camping, make sure to set up at least 200ft from a water source because the water source should be left undisturbed as much as possible for the animals that use it.
  • Remember, you are a visitor in THEIR home.

(7) Be Considerate of Other Visitors

  • Make sure to manage your pet if you decide to take them with you!
  • Treat others as you would want to be treated.
  • Avoid contributing to noise pollution as much as possible- includes talking loudly, playing music out loud, traveling in large groups, using electronics that makes sound.
  • Consider traveling during the off seasons to avoid running into large groups on holidays or busy weekends. This allows you to have more privacy, as well as making less impact on the area you are visiting.

In order for everyone to enjoy the great outdoors, we all need to learn how to take care of it. We all have a responsibility to preserve and protect it so that future generations will be able to experience the wilderness as we once did. So on your next trip to the wilderness, remember to LEAVE NO TRACE!


Check out more about Leave No Trace here.

Trail Running 101

Trail running is an excellent way to get in an intense workout while incorporating nature. It is a great alternative to road running. Not only is it a great for cardio, but it is also good for building endurance, strength, and agility… and who doesn’t like great scenery and fresh air while doing so? For one, it adds difficulty to your typical run with fluctuating elevation and natural obstacles, but also the surface is softer than concrete so it has less impact on your joints and with the varying terrain, you increase your speed and strength. For those of you just starting or new to trail running, here are a few tips and recommendations for when you decide to get out on a trail!


Let’s Get Started!


  • Research the trail.  Every trail is different so it is important to get an idea of what to expect, especially if it’s your first time trail running. Some resources like AllTrails and Tennessee State Park finder websites offer a trail finder so that you can find the right trail for you in your area! Find a map and study what the trail looks like, how long it is, where it goes through, and what other trails it connects to.
  • Determine length (by distance or time). If this is your first trail run, prepare to tire quicker than your normal run. While you might be used to running on the track or paved road, trail running adds terrain and potential obstacles like mud, roots, rocks, and fluctuating elevation. This adds more difficulty than what you might be used to, so consider opting for a trail with shorter distance to get the feel of it first! You could also consider running for time instead of distance at first so that you can further assess how you feel at a certain distance on the trail. This will allow you to determine what kind of pace you would like to keep vs the distance traveled.
  • Send someone the deets. Run with a partner, group, dog, or at the very least, let someone know that you will be going on a trail run. Let them know how long you plan on being on the trail or when you plan on being finished. Make sure to bring your phone, especially if you are alone, just in case something happens, you can call for help.
  • But what should I wear? Wearing your usual running clothes (preferably moisture-wicking material) will work just fine for trail running, but be prepared to possibly get them dirty just in case. As for your shoes, as a beginner, you will want to have something with good tread. After your first few trail runs, if you decide you would like to continue, then you should invest in some trail running shoes. They are typically a little beefier, with more tread than the normal running shoe, giving it more stability and protection. You also should consider wearing an insect repellent and even sunscreen if you know that a portion of the trail is uncovered and in the open.
  • What should I bring? What you bring really depends on how long you plan your trail run to be. If you plan on being out an hour/hour and a half, at the very least, bring water. It is always handy to carry a small, lightweight first aid kid or pocketknife.  If you are planning on going for a few hours, you should take a small bag or waist-pack to carry some water (whether it be handheld, hydration pack, etc.), small first aid kit, snack (granola bar, gels, chews, etc), and map of the trail.
  • Warm up before going on the run. Listen to your body and prevent injuries! Before going for your run you can warm up by doing some arm circles, leg swings, walk around on your toes (wake up those Achilles), hop in place, walking lunges, heel to butt, knee to chest, and start off with a jog.
  • Take it step by step. If you feel uncomfortable running uphill, through mud, or across rocks, don’t be afraid to just walk through it. You will build confidence the more you are out running the trails and this will take time! It can also be very tempting to look around at the beautiful nature surrounding you; however, it is important to keep your eyes on the trail. You will be in the wild so keeping an eye out for roots, sudden drops, or even snakes will be very important to avoid injury! That being said, it is best to look about 10ft in front of you, instead of straight down, that way you will see what is coming.
  • Trail Etiquette: only run on designated trails;  respect wildlife – do not disturb animals or nature; don’t litter – if you brought it in, you can bring it out; share the trail – when coming up on someone, make sure to let them know you are there by saying something like “on your left” or “hello” so that you do not startle them; if coming across a biker or horseback rider, the hiker yields to them; the uphill hiker has the right away vs. the downhill hiker;  keep your dog on a leash unless the area allows unleashed dogs;
  • Safety tips: always follow proper trail etiquette and park guidelines to avoid injury or getting lost; know what the dangers are in your area; learn about bear safety; know what to expect when encountering a snake and snake safety; wear bright colors if it is hunting season; Know your limits – if you need a break, take a break;  always check the weather radar; always carry more water than you think you need

Remember, go at your own pace. It might take a few runs to get your routine down on how far you want to go, how intense, what to bring, or what shoes to wear, but all you need to do is START! And most importantly, have fun and stay safe on the trails!


Healthy Parks Healthy Person TN does not want to reinvent the wheel when it comes to taking care of your health.  There are plenty of people who have already worked hard to bring you resources to improve your health.  Here are just a few that you might find useful:


What Do I Do Now?….. Quarantine Style

Many of us are going on a few weeks of quarantining at home due to COVID-19. I am sure you have been able to catch up on all your favorite TV shows, clean the house for the hundredth time, or have attempted to keep the kids occupied while they are out of school. This post is here to help you stay positive and spark some interest in you all who have found yourselves bored, tired, unmotivated or  depressed since being quarantined. It is time to switch it up, try something new, learn a new skill, find different ways to boost your mood, and/or educate your kids.

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” 

-Maya Angelou

 Stay Positive


  • Positive gratitude… Instead of focusing on what you currently can’t do, where you can’t go, or who you can’t see, focus on what you do have. Be grateful that you are able to get up each morning, that you have the ability to go outside, that you have a healthy family, that you are able to feed yourself and/or family, that you have a home, that you still have a job, or whatever it may be. BE GRATEFUL. In these hard times, we need to focus on the GOOD, not the bad or what we cannot control.
  • Keep a Routine… Though your normal, pre-quartantine routine has most likely been changed, you can create a new one for the time being. Remember that our current situation is temporary, but it is our new “normal” for now. Keeping a routine will help you feel more in control, less stressed and also help clear your head. Set a time to get up, to eat, to workout, to work, to watch your show (not all day), to play, to teach the kids or however you want your day to go! Create a schedule and stick to it! It will help!
  • Focus on the long term instead of short term…  Make goals for when we no longer have to be homebound. Reflect on yourself and determine what you really want in the next few months and/or years. Come up with a list that you want to accomplish in a month, 6 months, a year, 5 years, 10 years, etc. These can be as simple as “go to a state park at least 2 times a month” or as ambitious as “become the CEO of the company by…”. By creating these goals, you are able to escape our current situation and focus on what you want your future to hold and determine HOW to get there.
  • Surround yourself with positive people… Due to the current regulations to minimize travel and to encourage social distancing, do not physically go to other people’s houses or meet up. Instead, call them, Face time, Message, or use Zoom to contact them. Let your friends and family know that you are thankful for them. Having people in your life that can brighten your day (especially under current circumstances) or help escape the negativity that is broadcasted every day will help alleviate the anxiety, anger, loneliness, or just boredom that you might be feeling.  There is already so much going on in the world that you don’t need to have someone else bringing you down or making you feel even worse than before. On that note, YOU also do not want to be that negative person in someone else’ life. Be grateful and pass that optimism along to the next person.
  • When in doubt, listen to music that brightens your mood… Music is a powerful tool that can help turn your mood around. It is perfect to have playing when you’re cleaning, working out, cooking, dancing or playing with your kids outside.

What To Do When You’re All Out Of Ideas


  • Exercise physically and mentally… THIS. IS. A. MUST. For one, you are most likely way less active than you were pre-quarantine so you could most definitely use the movement right now. Secondly, exercising is a stress reliever and for some, a normal routine. Just because gyms are closed DOES NOT mean you cannot get in a good work out. If you aren’t sure where to start, check out some of these online classes for home workoutsHIIT workouts, YogaBoxingDancing or Stretching! If you can’t get yourself motivated to do a workout then aim for at least 30 minutes of MOVEMENT a day. This doesn’t mean you have to do burpees, but maybe 30 minutes of cleaning around the house, stretching, gardening, or a short walk around the neighborhood. Just get moving!!!
  • Fun family activities… backyard camping, backyard drive-in, bird watch, reading bingo, card games, board games (teach them chess, dominoes, and checkers), obstacle courses, charades, perform experiments instructed by Bill Nye the science guy, explore the Smithsonian resources , make your own hand soap, work on fine motor skills, make slime, explore outdoors
  • Jump back into or develop a new skill or hobby
    • Take up gardening, journaling, cross stitching, whittling, make a vision board, learn another language, work on a puzzle, get back into painting, try candle-making, crochet a blanket, cook those recipes you have been waiting to try, make a loaf of bread, learn to juggle
  • Have you organized the Tupperware and junk drawer/closet yet?… Maybe it is time to finally check that off the list!

During this time of uncertainty, keeping a positive, active mind and body are imperative. Make sure to limit the amount of time you spend on social media or watching the news. This will just cause more anxiety and is unnecessary. Have a routine to keep some normality in your/your families life. Try out some of these ideas out! At the very least, it will get you off the couch and trying something different!