On the trail: Swine of the times
September 2, 2010
I’ve come to the unfortunate conclusion that the number of pigs among us outdoor wanderers is growing. I base it on ample research outdoors this summer.
It seems like wherever I went I encountered garbage left behind: in tight desert canyons, at trail heads in the White River National Forest and adjacent BLM lands, and along pristine trails.
I don’t think it’s (just) a case of me turning in to a grumpy old man. There has been a surge of people in the outdoors. Some forest rangers I know figure it’s a case of people getting back to the simple things in life during the recession. And with that surge have come too many people with bad habits.
First case in point – I had a chance to hike Little Wild Horse and Bell Canyons in Utah on a Monday in May. Typically, it would have been crowded, but a wind storm the prior weekend scared most people away. There was one car in the parking lot when I pulled up. Threatening clouds soon gave way, and it turned into a nice day.
The slot canyons have brought me indescribable joy over the years, but I’ve visited them less frequently as they became more popular. To my dismay on the May trip, there were ample signs of use and abuse: candy wrappers, a discarded Band-Aid, a hand warmer package, a Gummy Bear and peels from what must have been three oranges. I know lots of people feel it’s OK to pitch organic material outside, but not in a narrow canyon where it can’t be avoided.
Some years ago, I took the advice of a friend and started carrying an empty plastic bag with me on day hikes. That way I could pick up garbage rather than just fuss about it. I filled half the baggy on that desert hike.
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The pigs are running rampant in the mountains, as well. I encountered used toilet paper blowing in the wind on Basalt Mountain (didn’t pick that up) and a hearty party’s worth of singed beer cans and bottles at the start of the Scout Trail outside of Glenwood Springs.
The latest heartbreaking garbage encounter came on the Capitol Lake trail two weekends ago. Less than a mile into the hike, on one of the most beautiful trails in the valley, a dog owner took the time to bag their pet’s waste, then left the bag sitting in the middle of the trail.
There’s a special corner of hell for people who do that.