Making A Difference, But Leaving No Trace


The rear seats have been swapped out for shelves and a table. There’s a portable two-burner stove, a library, a pantry, even a junk drawer – because, well, you always have to have a junk drawer. The dashboard is decorated with found treasures collected by the couple during the perpetual trash cleanups they perform along their journey – a little ninja, a miniature Jar Jar Binks, a tiny flip-flop – a menagerie of trinkets glued down for the ride and contributing to a sense of home for them. Because this is their home.


The couple live full time out of a Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid, camping more than 250 days of the year as their job takes them from coast to coast. In one month alone, they racked up 6,000 miles, nearly 35,000 miles that same year. Rowland and Mott are one of four Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer couples. Leave No Trace is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide public outreach and education. “We teach minimum-impact skills that allow us to leave places as good as or better than we found them,” says Rowland. 

Subaru is a partner with Leave No Trace, providing the Traveling Trainers with versatile, reliable vehicles as they tour the country putting on free workshops for preschool kids, university students, park services personnel, urban youth groups, and outdoor guides. You also might see their tent at the next music festival or community event. 


At the organization’s heart are seven core principles, practical techniques for caring for public lands. “All of what we teach is game- and activity-based,” says Rowland, “hands-on activities that help make sense of those techniques.” This can mean playground games for fifth-graders, a round of Jeopardy for adults, or even team-building in a backcountry setting. “The key to education is that engagement
factor, getting people connected,” says Mott.


In addition to the long list of workshop and event sites, Rowland and Mott visit Leave No Trace’s Hot Spots, popular natural areas – chosen from public nominees each year – under threat of irreversible damage from recreational use. The trainers team with local officials, personnel, volunteers, and the general public for a weekend of outreach and development. Last year, Rowland and Mott spent time in the San Juan Islands in Washington, a pristine area feeling the weight of more than half a million visitors each year.  

But it’s not just the wild places that thrive under their care. “A big part of our job is making the connection between the urban areas and natural areas,” says Mott. 

The Leave No Trace Seven Principles apply in both the deepest wilderness as well as your city park. “We have the opportunity to do right,” he says, “to make sure our natural places remain natural and don’t get loved to death.”


Rowland and Mott see firsthand the impact our shared lands have on their audiences. 

“It’s so necessary for the human spirit to have these places,” says Mott. “It’s important for kids to understand how they can connect and protect.” Mott recalls an eight-day hike among the San Juan Mountains in Colorado with a group of urban youth. 

“It had been cloudy the whole week, but, on the eighth night, the sky cleared up. One of the girls poked her head out of the tent and exploded into tears,” says Mott. Alarmed, the trainers ran to ask her what was wrong. It was the first time in her life she had ever been outside of Boston. Overcome with sobs, the girl replied, “I’ve never seen the stars!”