By now, if you've been reading this blog or even are remotely interested in hiking in general, you know of the books Wild and A Walk in the Woods. You also know that anyone who is an actual hiker (and not an armchair adventurer) is SO TIRED of hearing about those books (and movies!) With the popularity of Wild the Pacific Crest Trail has seen a huge upping of trail traffic and is even speculated to see more visitors than the Appalachian Trail this year. This is one of the reasons I personally have decided to wait until the "hype" dies down to hit the PCT. There were a ton of problems on the PCT last year, the first year of thru hiking since the movie Wild premiered. Legendary hostel Hiker Heaven, operated by the Saufley's , closed for the season (and has thankfully since reopened). Ziggy and the Bear of Whitewater Trail House had their donation jar stolen more than once. Trash and poop problems became so large it prompted blog posts by the PCTA themselves to tell hikers to quit pooping under rocks (which was featured in Cheryl Strayed's book).
With the more recent complaints of poop at Eagle Rocks and trash being dumped behind and over rocks WITH A DUMPSTER ACROSS THE STREET it couldn't be a better time to hear that the Packing it Out Crew has decided to hit the PCT. Packing it Out did an AT thru hike last year with the goal to remove 1000 pounds of trash from the trails. That 1000 pounds includes tires, mattresses, and countless cigarette butts. They didn't even count the number of times they had to properly bury someone's toilet paper for them (gross, right?!) With the season getting late for PCT NoBo's, the hikers are about to hit the trail from Campo to head north. They deliberately chose a later starting date to get behind most of the trail traffic to help clean up the trash.
The fact that we need people to hike behind the pack and clean up after them is both uplifting and infuriating to me. With more trail traffic than ever it is so important for hikers to be practicing Leave No Trace ethics to the best of their abilities. If the words "Leave No Trace" annoy you, follow the ethics you most likely learned as a scout - leave the place better than you found it. As a guide in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited National Park in the country, I pick up countless pieces of trash every day (and do not touch the toilet paper or tampons if I don't have a biohazard bag handy for them). It is so incredibly sad to see that the solution most people have for trash/toilet paper disposal is "well, I'm done here, I'll just leave it."
If you haven't heard about Packing it Out, I highly recommend their blog here. And for those of you who are just recreational hikers please carry an extra bag for trash when you go out. You don't have to pick up anything too disgusting, but just pick up some small things. Microtrash (bottle caps, plastic rings, pop can tabs, pieces people pulled off candy bar wrappers) can really add up! Let's all try to leave the trail a better place than we found it!
Do you like to take hikes in your area but find a lot of trash? How does it make you feel to see trails and waterways with garbage?