During our recent multi-state family camping excursion I was struck by the amount of leftover trash that we found in many of the campsites that we occupied. “Dad, why are you taking pictures of garbage?” Asked my oldest daughter, who is used to seeing me snap lots of pictures for “the website,” but she thought it was strange that I was photographing old bottle caps, cigarette butts and discarded tent stakes.
“Why do you think people left this stuff here, for us to clean up?” I asked my daughter. “I don’t know,” she said, “but it sure is gross.” Gross indeed. We are used to finding some bottle caps and old aluminum foil, when we arrive in a new campsite, but the thing that struck me most on this trip is that we were camping in some pretty obscure and remote places. Even Lassen National Park is not heavily trafficked, particularly in early July when snow still covers much of the upper elevations.
Discarded trash isn’t the only environmental damage that we came across, on our family camping journey. Right behind our campsite, in the Six Rivers National Forest, someone decided to cut their own firewood by trying to chop through a large tree branch. Never mind all the deadfall around the area, or the little market down road that sells firewood. They must have given up, but the tree is now heavily damaged.
This kind of stuff is so blatantly senseless that I really think the people responsible for it don’t realize that they are doing anything wrong. I don’t know how one reaches these people, because something like throwing a Pepsi® can on the ground is so foreign to me.
For all of the frustration over the seemingly endless supply of backcountry trash, though, there is hope in the next generation. While hiking through the redwoods one morning, we noticed a freshly-discarded soda can in the bushes, next to the trail. “Should we take it out?” My daughter asked, with no prompting from me. I didn’t even have time to get mad about the can.