TL;DR: Litter left behind on public lands by uncaring scumbags is an all too common problem these days. Properly disposing of your own garbage is simply the bare minimum. You can do a great extra service by simply bringing a small bag with you on your walks/hikes and filling it up with trash you pick up along the way.
There is this beautiful poem by John Glascock Baldwin which in part states “You shall walk where only the wind has walked before…” and that is one of our goals during our adventures.
Sadly what was once a rare occurrence has now become an all too common annoyance. I speak of garbage left behind by previous campers and back country travelers. To make matters worse the vast majority of the time it is not just one wrapper or can that may have been forgotten on a bumper or blown off a table or out of a car. These days, more often than not it is blatant, don’t-give-a-shit littering on a massive scale.
We now never walk away from our camp without at least one plastic grocery store bag to fill up with the leftovers we find on our daily walks. I honestly cannot remember the last time we were able to go for a walk and not be able to fill the bag we brought and not be disappointed that there was more that we could have done. What was once merely a walk or a hike has now become The Garbage Walk.
The pictures on this page were from four different days on four different Forest Service Roads in two different National Forests in one state, Washington. This is not meant as a dig at Washington – no other state we regularly frequent is any better and it is merely our attempt to not bore you that we refrain from posting more pictures of garbage. It. Is. Everywhere.
What is all the more sad about it is that we can see among the piles there are obvious remnants of children’s foodstuffs and diapers. So not only or these douche litterers leaving a mess but they are breeding and teaching their special little sneauxflakes that this is a normal, accepted practice in their scummy world.
We regularly see mention of “Leave No Trace” and/or “Pack It In, Pack It Out” in both Forest Service/BLM/National Park publications and on information boards at trail heads and campgrounds so this should not be a foreign concept to people who come to enjoy these types of public lands. The only explanation is that too many people don’t care.
They don’t care about the public land.
They don’t care about the people who will visit the area after them.
They don’t care about the wildlife and all the negative impacts their litter can have on it.
They don’t care that it will most likely never get seen much less picked up by the underfunded, overworked employees of those public agencies and will just sit and rot unless someone in the Vast minority like me sees and is willing and able to pick it up.
They don’t care that they are setting a really bad example for their children.
They obviously don’t care that their camp looks like a garbage strewn dump even while they are in it.
They don’t care that if they get caught (a rarity but, oh please oh please) the ticket can be quite expensive.
They simply do not care.
Our solution is twofold. First, we seriously ask any and all law enforcement members who work for these public agencies to refrain from issuing warnings of any kind and instead aggressively ticket those people you come across that are obviously littering. We understand that you are few and far between. We understand that finding garbage in an occupied campsite does not turn into litter until the campers have left it behind. What we propose is that when you contact someone you merely inform them that you are taking their information down (even just license plates) and that after they have left if you find the campsite trashed an after-the-fact ticket and summons WILL be issued. Start hitting these litterers where it hurts (their wallets). Word will spread. Some people will clean up their acts. Some people will not. Some people will just stop coming. Such incalculable funds will be raised from the littering fines that we bet you could fund a large portion of your entire budget and not merely hope that politicians will give you the money needed to administer these public lands efficiently and properly. Either way with just a couple of policy changes on Law Enforcement’s part the amount of litter and the people who leave it will decrease while funds will increase. Yes, we understand that this is, sadly, not as simple as we would all like it to be but it still sounds like a win-win situation to us.
Second, we urge you, gentle reader, to consider doing a little bit extra by performing such an easy and fulfilling task as taking a Garbage Walk next time you are lucky enough to find yourselves enjoying the great outdoors somewhere. Very much on the same plane as our post on Poop Karma it can now be said that, the “Pack It In – Pack It Out” and “Leave No Trace” crowds are doing the bare minimum. They’re doing something and we give them credit for that but it is simply not enough these days. The next step must be to not only take care of your own garbage but clean up some if not all of other sourced detritus you find in your back country travels. This should not be a new idea to anyone who has ever served in the military as a standard practice when breaking down camp is to “police the area” which essentially means to take an extended look around and remove any and all traces of prior usage. Just because you don’t chew gun (so obviously that gum wrapper is not yours) is not a valid excuse for not taking the few seconds to pick it up and dispose of it properly. That goes for spent firearm shells, cigarette butts (which is, as always, the most common type of litter), empty cans of crap American Lite Lager, plastic utensils and anything else made by humans that didn’t originate on the patch of ground you are policing. We’ll graciously give you a pass on used condoms, tampon applicators and used diapers (yes they are regularly found as well) but then again you can always carry latex or nitrile gloves with you and go that extra mile 🙂
Sadly, Willow will not live long enough to enjoy such a sea change and I am most pessimistic that I will get to ever experience a litter-free walk or hike. We can only wait and hope and see if change for the better will happen.
Let us be the change we want to see in the world.