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John B.
2005-06-29, 14:23
I'm going to complain; rather, I'm going to make a couple of observations that were surprising to me.

This May was the first time for me to hike on the AT. For that matter, it was really the first time to be in the woods for more than a day or so. Maybe I'm preaching to the choir, but that said I was surprised at how the "leave no trace" axiom is seemingly rarely followed.

The first shelter I stopped at had an empty liquor bottle in the fire ring; another had one Chaco sandel -- just one, mind you, not both, but just one -- that had been partially burned; another had 4 beer cans; all fire rings had quite a bit of foil.

I assumed that the 'leave no trace' rule was all but universally followed. It wasn't, and that surprised me. Indeed, it seems that it is the exception rather than the rule.

My second night on the trail. Three people were cooking dinner. One was cooking ramen and evidently didn't like so much broth, so she just poured it on the ground directly in front of the shelter. I mean, she just leaned over and poured it out. I said nothing. The other two hikers didn't say anything or act as if that was wrong, either. Maybe I should have, but I didn't -- "Ever wonder why there are so many mice here? Think the smell of beef ramen might attrack a bear?" It was raining that afternoon, and the ramen wrapper went into the fire ring. No fire was burning, so I guess she was thinking that the next day someone would incinerate the crap for her. And no, I didn't say anything. In retrospect, I guess that I didn't because I didn't want to get into a shouting match on my 2nd day on the trail. Or maybe as a rookie with a grand total of 36 hours of long-distance hiking experience, I didn't know what was acceptable or tolerated and what's not.

When I knew that I would be at a road crossing or a place that was likely to have trash cans, I carried out "fire ring foil" and other lightweight scraps. I smashed 2 beer cans flat and carried them out. I simply wasn't prepared or have room or energy to haul empty quart liquor bottles or other stuff. Maybe I should have made room and expended the energy, but I didn't. So I guess that I was a silent accomplice -- easier to complain after the fact than do something about it.

Let me back up and say that, for example, I didn't carry Folgers singles because I didn't want to haul around the weight from a wet, used coffee bag. I mean, I took the 'leave no trace' thing literally. I didn't leave behind a damned thing but my footprints, and those who did otherwise surprised me.

Maybe I'm making a big deal out of nothing and that I should expect that there will be some traces left behind. Maybe the 'leave no trace' rule is like the 55 mph speed limit -- empty rhetoric.

Anyway, that's my observation.

dixicritter
2005-06-29, 15:39
It seems to me a shame that our 7 year old cares more about picking up other people's trash on the trail than those that claim to love the trail. Actually its sad.

One funny thing that little "creek hopper" said this weekend on our short day hike was when we saw this couple out with their three rather large dogs off leashes. He looked up at Rock and said "Dad, I thought dogs weren't allowed on the trail, or at least they had to be on a leash." (We were on the BMT)

Rock is thinking about getting him a t-shirt that says "Official Rule Enforcer" LOL. How many people would argue rules with a 7 year old?? ;)

Seeker
2005-06-29, 15:49
I'm going to complain; rather, I'm going to make a couple of observations that were surprising to me.

This May was the first time for me to hike on the AT. For that matter, it was really the first time to be in the woods for more than a day or so. Maybe I'm preaching to the choir, but that said I was surprised at how the "leave no trace" axiom is seemingly rarely followed.

The first shelter I stopped at had an empty liquor bottle in the fire ring; another had one Chaco sandel -- just one, mind you, not both, but just one -- that had been partially burned; another had 4 beer cans; all fire rings had quite a bit of foil.

I assumed that the 'leave no trace' rule was all but universally followed. It wasn't, and that surprised me. Indeed, it seems that it is the exception rather than the rule.

My second night on the trail. Three people were cooking dinner. One was cooking ramen and evidently didn't like so much broth, so she just poured it on the ground directly in front of the shelter. I mean, she just leaned over and poured it out. I said nothing. The other two hikers didn't say anything or act as if that was wrong, either. Maybe I should have, but I didn't -- "Ever wonder why there are so many mice here? Think the smell of beef ramen might attrack a bear?" It was raining that afternoon, and the ramen wrapper went into the fire ring. No fire was burning, so I guess she was thinking that the next day someone would incinerate the crap for her. And no, I didn't say anything. In retrospect, I guess that I didn't because I didn't want to get into a shouting match on my 2nd day on the trail. Or maybe as a rookie with a grand total of 36 hours of long-distance hiking experience, I didn't know what was acceptable or tolerated and what's not.

When I knew that I would be at a road crossing or a place that was likely to have trash cans, I carried out "fire ring foil" and other lightweight scraps. I smashed 2 beer cans flat and carried them out. I simply wasn't prepared or have room or energy to haul empty quart liquor bottles or other stuff. Maybe I should have made room and expended the energy, but I didn't. So I guess that I was a silent accomplice -- easier to complain after the fact than do something about it.

Let me back up and say that, for example, I didn't carry Folgers singles because I didn't want to haul around the weight from a wet, used coffee bag. I mean, I took the 'leave no trace' thing literally. I didn't leave behind a damned thing but my footprints, and those who did otherwise surprised me.

Maybe I'm making a big deal out of nothing and that I should expect that there will be some traces left behind. Maybe the 'leave no trace' rule is like the 55 mph speed limit -- empty rhetoric.

Anyway, that's my observation.


welcome to the AT. for most of it's length, it's never really that far from civilization, and barbarians who decide it's fun to party in the woods. now you know why some people practice 'stealth camping'. there are some real nuts out there. i've moved a campsite once or twice to get myself or my kid(s) away from what i considered a bad situation (drunks). fortunately, as they've gotten older, we can go further back into the woods and get away from people. i've even found garbage in 'designated wilderness areas'... yes, it's sad and disgusting. and hard to explain to a 10 year old why we should be the ones to pick it up... but thank you for packing out the scraps. the AT volunteers who clean and maintain our wonderful trail system do this quite often. no, it's not fair, but do it anyway. concerning the ramen water pourer-outer; maybe she didn't know any better, but i'll admit, it was pretty dumb. yes, it's sort of like the speed limit, but not 'the law'. some people just don't have the character to do what's right when no one's looking.

don't let this dampen your enthusiasm... and keep up the good work. you did right in carrying it out. the bottle, well, that might have been above and beyond your call of duty. in a karmic sense, surely sometime in your past you've gotten away with dropping a gum wrapper and not picking it up... look at it as either penance or a character building experience... but stay out there and enjoy the woods...

dropkick
2005-06-29, 16:47
Ever since I was a child I've been cleaning up litter left in the forest.
I have my parents to thank for teaching me this.
We carry trashbags with us almost everywhere we go.
I'm from Montana, and a dog owner, so I go onto either Forest Service, BLM, FWP or some other form of public lands on an almost daily basis to walk my dog.
The other day we (the dog and I) took a day hike (about 4 miles in) up a creek in the Bitterroot National Forest until we reached a small pond created by a log jam.
We ate our dinner there (spam spread on 2 hamburger buns and a packet of moist and meaty) and then we both took a swim (very chilly but refreshing).
I got dried off, changed into some dry shorts, and collected 4 empty water bottles, 5 burnt cans (from a fire ring), 2 pop cans, 5 pieces of aluminum foil, 3 candy wrappers, and 2 beer bottles.
My pack was heavier leaving than it was coming in.



- The strangest thing I ever hauled out, was 42 tennis balls that I found scattered around about a mile into a nature preserve. Never have figured that one out.

Icemanat95
2005-06-29, 17:10
That jibes pretty well with my experience over the past 15 years of relatively active backpacking. Most hikers seem to think that "Leave no Trace" only applies to stealth campsites and not to the shelter and established camp areas. LNT principles that are easy to comply with (not building campfires except at established sites), not cutting down trees or using branches for bed padding, etc. are adhered to relatively easily since following them requires no real effort, but weight obsessed thru-hikers and backpackers will often jump at an opportunity to shed the weight and bulk of a couple ounces of trash. I'll admit that I tended to burn my toilet paper in the cathole rather than haul it out, and the idea of actually hauling out my bowel movements is too repulsive to actually contemplate, but Most trash from hiker food and first aid products is not terribly combustible. At most you will melt it and cause it to shrivel up, but a campfire will almost never have the heat output needed to actually burn aluminum foil or even aluminized plastics. So carry them out. But people don't.

Quite frankly, I see the US population falling back on the anti-littering ethic that developed in the 1970's and 1980's. I see more litter on the sides of streets today than I did 10 years ago and I don't get it at all. How hard is it to hold onto your McDonalds trash until you get home or to somewhere with a trashcan?

Iceman
2005-06-30, 01:08
Dainon, welcome to the woods. Out here in the Pacific Northwest, same problem, different place. Hike any trail, even off trail, and you will find some "A-holes" junk. I have been setting the example for my hunting buddies, and my children of always leaving the woods cleaner than I found it. It adds up. Even the areas where we hunt, go plinking, fish, you name it, they are cleaner when I am done. I take pride doing this. I tell people about doing this. Do not let some imbecile, or team of imbeciles spoil your time. Plan on them being there, or having been there. Never be amazed. You will, as I have, see/seen the most amazingly beautiful and the ugliest sights you can imagine. We all have horror stories. The fact is, this is the price we have to pay to enjoy the outdoors. After fishing I pick up trash. After hunting I pick up trash. After hiking (during) I pick up trash. This is my and your reality, sorry to say. Keep your eyes open for the blatant violator, and take pleasure in chewing some rear end over the issue. Turn in someone to law enforcement. Let someone see you stop to clean something up. Maybe the word will spread. I have ceased to be amazed, and simply plan ahead for the inevitable. No biggy anymore.

Dropkick, could your tennis balls, be the remnants of someones target practice with their homemade tennis ball cannon?

dropkick
2005-06-30, 01:43
Iceman, the tennis balls weren't singed or damaged in anyway that I could tell, but who knows? Your explanation is the best one I've heard so far.

--In a strange way I'm kind of in debt to this litter bug, as the balls have provided many hours of joy in fetching and then chewing to the dogs I've owned.
Sooner or later they chew the balls in half, but even after 8 or so years and 2 different dogs, I've still got a coffee can full of them in the garage.

Iceman
2005-06-30, 11:01
Dropkick, the homemade cannons that I have fired tennis balls, pop cans, and potatoes, sort of push the projectile out ahead of the flame, so no singe action that I have noticed. Hmmm, sounded like a great find for fido! Strange kind of co-existence going on here... Reminds me of the message left elsewhere here on this site where a member picks up discarded soda cans and makes stoves from them...

Just Jeff
2005-06-30, 11:37
I absolutely hate seeing people throw cigarette butts out of car windows. My pet peeve. Cleaning crews can pick up cans and and wrappers, but they rarely take the time to pick up butts. Then they get washed into streams and stuff. Ick.

I wonder what would happen if I got out and threw their butt back into their car. Better pick someone smaller than me...

dougmeredith
2005-06-30, 13:24
I absolutely hate seeing people throw cigarette butts out of car windows. My pet peeve.

I agree with you on this one Jeff. I just don't understand why so many smokers seem to think it is okay to do this.

Doug

SGT Rock
2005-06-30, 19:25
I absolutely hate seeing people throw cigarette butts out of car windows. My pet peeve. Cleaning crews can pick up cans and and wrappers, but they rarely take the time to pick up butts. Then they get washed into streams and stuff. Ick.

I wonder what would happen if I got out and threw their butt back into their car. Better pick someone smaller than me...

Butts are one of my pet peeves, especially as a 1SG with my police call area. Go out to any place that smokers hung out and there would be butts everywhere, but ever smoker you would talk to claimed it wasn't them. My usual response was "Then who was it? The non-smokers just trying to make you guys look bad?" I got tired of it and made every smoker in the Troop go pick it up or I would just suspend all smoking in any place in the Troop AO. That usually worked.

dropkick
2005-07-01, 00:21
Reminded me of my army days:
I could never figure this out - AIT - every morning my squad would line up and police the grass in front of our barracks, and every morning I would find at least 2 butts, and so would everyone else. But no one was allowed on the grass, and even though this was before the paranoia about cigarette smoking, the smokers were still restricted in where they could smoke, and they weren't supposed to be smoking anywhere near the front of the barracks.
So where did all the butts come from?
Magic elves?

bird dog
2005-07-01, 00:39
Thank goodness for the local trail clubs that maintain the trails. They remove tons of garbage every year I'm sure. I'm not sure what the fine for littering is in a national park, but I know that it is $250.00 here. If it is any consellation, I am a police officer and always ticket those I find littering. I wish that I could do the same on the trail!

Seeker
2005-07-01, 10:47
Reminded me of my army days:
I could never figure this out - AIT - every morning my squad would line up and police the grass in front of our barracks, and every morning I would find at least 2 butts, and so would everyone else. But no one was allowed on the grass, and even though this was before the paranoia about cigarette smoking, the smokers were still restricted in where they could smoke, and they weren't supposed to be smoking anywhere near the front of the barracks.
So where did all the butts come from?
Magic elves?

it was the drills... they'd go out and seed the lawn so you'd have something to do the next day...

deadeye
2005-07-01, 12:02
The number of people that use the AT makes it a microcosm of our country - lots of good folks, and a few that make life difficult for the rest. It is very frustrating and often disheartening to see the abuse the trails and shelters take from people who don't know better or just don't care. I do a fair bit of volunteer trail work, and it kills me to see bootleg trails, litter, shortcutted switchbacks, and other unnecessary damage. At the same time, I'm encouraged by the number of volunteers, and the many thanks we get when people see us working on the trails. The idiots and drunks are why I spend so few nights in shelters (particularly on weekends) and practice stealth camping, and almost always carry an extra trash bag.

We can't do much about those that don't care, but it's worth trying to teach those who don't know, before they become those that don't care.

dropkick
2005-07-01, 16:42
it was the drills... they'd go out and seed the lawn so you'd have something to do the next day...

More likely it was the Top Sergeant, (aside) you know that all of them are a little off. :rolleyes: