Don’t even think about leaving a trace

An outdoorswoman reflects on the myriad kinds of litter she’s encountered in nature.

 

Marjorie “Slim” Woodruff is a contributor to Writers on the Range, the opinion service of NewTowncarShare News. She works with visitors at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Leave No Trace means just that: Travel as though you were being followed by IRS agents, and you don’t want them to ever track you down.

We need to carry it out. All. Of. It. Even though there are objects so beyond the pale that people who don’t think they care about litter — those unfortunates who have never heard of Leave No Trace — are appalled when they see them. But I promise you: This is not a minor offense. Those who leave these items behind are a hissing and a byword to the rest of us. Those items include:

FECES

Your own, your animal’s, your toddler’s. Yes, we all have to “go,” but we don’t have to leave it out in the open for everyone to admire. It does not work to hide it under a rock. It certainly does not work to hide it behind a rock. Bury it. Six inches deep, and carry out your poo paper. Your dog’s waste needs to be carried out, too, along with your youngest issue’s diapers.

POO UNDIES

Or shirts. Or socks. Or bandannas. Whatsoever people use when they are out of poo paper, and their need is dire. They desperately grasp at anything even remotely absorbent. Then they certainly don’t want to touch it again, so it is left behind for the rest of us. One can almost (almost) understand their wishful thinking — the idea that paper will eventually vanish — but a whole T-shirt? Don’t fool yourself.

GLOW STICKS

Why are these even a thing? Plastic is bad enough. But plastic filled with toxic chemicals? These things do not replace flashlights. Is this really a replicable skill? And then leaving them behind to festoon the flora? Negatory.

CIGARETTE BUTTS

To reiterate: They are toxic, and they don’t rot. Animals eat them, to their detriment. Also, smoldering butts set fire to things that the rest of us need, like forests.

EXTERNAL SPEAKERS

The only thing I want to hear with a beat is my own heart. External speakers are the second-hand smoke of Natural Quiet. If you cannot stand to be alone with your thoughts for more than five minutes, invest in a pair of ear buds. The rest of us want to listen to the wind, or birdsong, or the gentle susurration of running water. I have already decided that the next time I encounter one of these audibly “sharing” persons, I will start singing at the top of my lungs. I am considering the immortal Sheri Lewis’ “The Song That Never Ends.” Be afraid; be very afraid.  

PLASTIC SINGLE-USE WATER BOTTLES

Particularly the cute, tiny ones that hold 8 ounces of water. Again, why are these a thing? Ten years ago, if I had told people they would pay $5 a gallon for glorified tap water in a bottle that they would use only once and then deposit in the ocean, they would’ve scoffed. A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute. They are expensive, wasteful, contain BPA, and often have more bacteria than water from the tap. The bottles degrade and get into the food chain. Buy a bleeping canteen and fill it from the faucet. Yes, the canteens will eventually disintegrate, but I have canteens older than my kid. And they are purple and have witty stickers.

PAINTED ROCKS

These apparently are the newest fad. Some of them are quite adorable, but not on the trail. If you must nick geology specimens from the public lands and adorn them with animal faces or poetry or whatever, keep them on your shelf. Post them on Facebook. Eat them, or bury them with your poop. Just do not leave them on the trail. And rocks with a hashtag on the back? Those are taken straight to the law enforcement rangers.  

Volunteers removed litter from North Spit beach in Coos Bay, Oregon, in 2014.

Of course, many other people besides me care about random litter, too, and some of them do something about it. The Arizona Mountaineering Club comes two or three times a year and rappels down Grand Canyon to pick up discards under popular viewpoints. The Grand Canyon Hikers and Backpackers Association goes down at least two weeks during the year to pick up trash, clean graffiti off rocks, and do projects for the park.  

Staffers at Arizona Public Service often volunteer for a day picking stuff up along the canyon rim, and Grand Canyon Association members do litter pickup and other park-authorized projects before their annual picnic in July. A local group called Greens Grand Canyon South Rim does a litter pickup once a month, mostly on the rim, and there are many other groups that pitch in.  

Every litter bit helps, but as any volunteer can tell you, a week after they leave, butts and poop and water bottles and other detritus are baaaaaaack — and the bending-over job starts all over again.

Note: the opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of NewTowncarShare News, its board or staff. If you'd like to share an opinion piece of your own, please write Betsy Marston at [email protected].

NewTowncarShare News Classifieds
  • 1400 sf of habitable space in a custom-designed eco-home created and completed by a published L.A. architect in 1997-99. Nestled within its own 80-acre mountain...
  • The National Parks Conservation Association, the nations leading national park advocacy organization, seeks a Regional Director to lead and manage staff for the Southwest Regional...
  • available in Gothic, CO for 2019 summer season - Manager, Lead Cooks, Prep-Cooks, Dishwasher - at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL). The Dining Hall...
  • Suitable for planting hay, hemp, fruit. Excellent water rights. 1800 square foot farmhouse, outbuildings, worker housing.
  • More information: jobs.wisc.edu. Search 96076
  • Friends of the Verde River is looking for someone to join our team who has a keen investigative mind and is an excellent communicator and...
  • - Thriving Indie bookstore in Durango, CO. 1800 sf of busy retail space in a 3100 sf historic building. Long term lease or option to...
  • with home on one acre in Pocatello, ID. For information and photos visit www.blackrockforgeproperty.com.
  • The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition is seeking a technical partner to develop a land management plan for the 1.9 million-acre Bears Ears Landscape in southeastern...
  • Specializing in native seeds and seed mixes for western states.
  • on 3 acres near Moxon. 3 bd/1.5 bath, apt. Views/access to hiking, fishing, wildlife.1-207-593-6312. $165,900.
  • Senior position responsible for the development of all marketing and fundraising strategies to grow the base of philanthropic support and awareness of GSEP.
  • This newly created position with The Nature Conservancy's Colorado River Program will play a key role in the development and implementation of strategies to achieve...
  • A new generation of monkey wrenchers hits the Front Range?
  • The Wilderness Society works to protect Wildlands and inspire Americans to care for our public lands. We seek to hire a strategic, experienced leader who...
  • Organic grocery/cafe at Glacier Bay needs a vibrant leader. Love good food, community, and Alaska? Join us!
  • Collector's Item! The story of barley, the field crop. 50 years of non-fiction research. www.barleybook.com
  • near Ennis, MT. Artist designed, 1900 SF, 2BR/2BA home on 11.6 acres with creek, tree, views, privacy. 406-570-9233 or [email protected] www.arrowreal.com (Country Homes).
  • Colorado Farm to Table is looking for a full-time energetic, creative Executive Director to lead our team in Salida.
  • Join HCN and Black Sheep Adventures on an expedition through the national parks and monuments of Utah and Southwest Colorado, September 7 - 15, 2019....