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Thread: Trash on Twin/Leave No Trace

  1. #1
    Senior Member MattC's Avatar
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    Trash on Twin/Leave No Trace

    About a week ago, I went up Twin (in the Catskills) from Pecoy Notch, and back down Jimmy Dolan Notch. It was a great hike, but one thing soured it just a bit-trash. At the second lookout on the north side, there was a bunch of little stuff. About 20 cigarette butts (as if someone had emptied an ashtray!) and a bunch of lunch napkins, wrappers, etc. Fortunately, I had enough room in my small plastic lunch bag. Just as I finished cleaning it all up,
    the sun came out!

    Over on the other side, there was another pile of junk a little off the trail just behind the other lookout. At this point I was just pissed off. It was a large plastic bag, part of a plastic sheet, a salad dressing bottle, and a bunch of other crap. I had no more room, and was frustrated that I couldn't just cart it off the mountain. Also, on the way back down JD Notch, I walked over about 40 different rocks in which someone named "Ally" has scratched her name. Not a pleasant way to finish off a hike. Maybe I'm coming off a little thin-skinned or naive here. I do realize that this kind of thing, and much worse, has gone on for years. However, I've only been hiking the Catskills about two months, but have done about 27 peaks, and I've seen almost no trash, and very little sign of abuse. I don't know if Twin is a particularly abused area or what. I've heard that "kids" like to go up to the old quarry to party.

    Back at the register, I told some hikers about the trash, and they said they'd probably have enough room to cart it off after lunch, which made me feel a little better. My lesson of the day was that being prepared includes having a trash bag. I've never littered in the wilderness in my life and have taken other people's trash out a time or two before, but I realize now that Leave No Trace really means more than just not trashing stuff yourself. An old trail guide (Walks in the Catskills by Jon Bennet and Seth Masia) mentions the importance of picking up even the smallest candy wrapper. According to the authors, there is some evidence that people who litter often do so because they see other litter. Therefore a completely litter-free area is more likely to stay that way.

    I know I'm preaching to the converted here, but I'm sure a few of you have walked past a small piece of trash without picking it up at least once or twice. I know I have. There's been times when I've thought "What jerk left this here?" but just walked on. I've learned that my anger isn't going to make the backcountry any cleaner, but picking the damn thing up is going to make me less angry. Just wanted to share these thoughts. One last note for would-be trail-cleaners who don't like to touch someone else's trash. Trekking poles can be used to pick some stuff up, and don't hit the trail without your hand sanitizer.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Grumpy's Avatar
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    Yes!

    Didn’t quite know what to make of this post at first, but reading it through I became very intrigued with the gamut of thoughts it ran. A wonderful essay, with a wonderful conclusion. Bravo!

    I regularly pick up trash along the trail, and have done so for (dare I say it?) more than 40 years -- from the moment it became clear to me as a young man that this was the right thing to do.

    Mrs. G. does not always appreciate and fully understand this, and even finds my habit disgusting when we hike together. But she’s a tolerant soul, and so puts up with my peculiarity. Perhaps she regards me as a “poor thing.”

    Anyway, I often write up an inventory of the trash collected and where it was found on a hike in my daybook, which makes the collecting exercise seem a bit like a game -- like recording trail times and mileage, etc.. I feel self-satisfied, sipping the evening whisky and writing in my journal and thinking the place I walked today may a bit improved rather than degraded by my visit.

    Thanks, mcorsar, for posting your ruminations. And thanks to all you trash picker-uppers out there who ply our trails and summits. The world is a better place for your passing through.

    G.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Jay H's Avatar
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    I second Grumpy's thanks for the picking. I too try to pick up trash that I see on the trail or on the lake in my kayak and stuff. Actually, usually pick up a lot of trash at the trailheads. You can always check the trail registers for large groups, I would think that if there was an ashtray sized pack of cigarrettes, it's probably from a group of smokers rather than 1 or 2 smoking hikers. Groups that probably aren't regular hikers but are often seen in the catskills. I've run into large groups all wearing non-hiking clothes in and around there and NJ and southern NY.

    I ran into a large group of Chinese folks on the AT in the dead of January up by High Point NJ. About 2-3 feet of the snow, the perceived leader is wearing snowshoes, NOBODY else is and they are like doing a conga line south on the AT towards Lake Rutherford. I am coming back from my loop from the shelter at Lake Rutherford and I've been breaking trail the entire time. I talk to the leader and tell him, if you plan on going further than the Shelter turnoff, you're breaking trail because my tracks will leave the AT. Then I got into interesting conversations with everybody else about snowshoes (plus the fact that I am also Chinese, but unlike them, I was alone) and how to follow the AT since the winter was a particularly bad one in terms of freezing rain. The AT markers were very very hard to pick out behind the frozen rain and at times, it was almost impossible to find the trail, even such a popular one as the AT. Anyway, I eventually left and wondered how they faired.

    Jay
    You must go and you must ramble
    Through every briar and bramble
    Till your life is in a shambles
    Maybe then you will know
    -"You Must Go" - John Hiatt

  4. #4
    Senior Member Rivet's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mcorsar
    About a week ago, I went up Twin (in the Catskills) from Pecoy Notch, and back down Jimmy Dolan Notch.

    Also, on the way back down JD Notch, I walked over about 40 different rocks in which someone named "Ally" has scratched her name.
    I did the same hike a couple weeks ago and rember seeing all the rocks with "Ally" scratched in them. I wouldn't worry too much about that.

    It was close to peak leaf color and there were a lot of casual/newbie hikers out - so this may contribute to the garbage situation. Though I don't remember seeing much if any trash.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Rik's Avatar
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    I'm a garbage picker too! And Grumpy my wife thinks I'm nuts but I've actually roped her in a few times too. I always carry a couple of garbage bags in my pack. A few years ago friends and I carted 7 bags of trash out from the Devil's Kitchen lean-to area. Good thing it was a short walk back to the car. Interesting that this is not too far from Twin.

  6. #6
    Senior Member ExploreTheEast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rivet
    I did the same hike a couple weeks ago and rember seeing all the rocks with "Ally" scratched in them
    This really irked me. 40 times is a gross understatement! Every 30 feet for at least 3 miles. I'll carry mace in the future, just in case I come across Ally.
    Uh-oh.... somebody's got a new website... wandr.com :-)

  7. #7
    Senior Member ExploreTheEast's Avatar
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    Oh, and there wasn't any trash coming over Indian Head, except for this one spot, I think it was an overlook (maybe just a cliff with no view), but the inconsiderate pricks threw their trash over the side. It was like a 20 foot drop so I couldn't get to it easily.
    Uh-oh.... somebody's got a new website... wandr.com :-)

  8. #8
    Senior Member TomEske's Avatar
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    I too say thanks for the picking up. I carry two spare garbage bags on all trips, one big, and one small. I like the thoery that a clean place breeds clean habits. Someitmes I come out with a load tied on the pack. Most times its just little scraps I put in my pocket.
    Devil's Kitchen is a terrible place for garbage, sometimes it is overwhelming. Still, if we all do our bit, it just makes for a better experience. Don't let the slobs get you down because then they have ruined your day.
    The one time I got ticked was when we found a nicely packed bag of trash that (in the cave on Wittenburg) someone just didn't want to carry, so they left it. If they had packed it so neatly, why not take it out?
    You can't do mental battle with unarmed people, just grin & bear it, then do what you know is right.
    Happy Hiking,
    Tom

  9. #9
    Senior Member Grumpy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TomEske
    . . . I like the thoery that a clean place breeds clean habits.. . .
    I like this theory, too. Experience tells me its corollary -- that a poorly kept place invites abuse -- is unhappily valid. That's what makes each of us doing our little bit so important.

    One cautionary note on trash hauling: I often use white or similarly light colored plastic shopping bags to hold collected junk found along the trail, etc. Rather than carry the bag in hand, I hitch it to the back of my pack. This might be pretty dangerous in big game hunting season -- the light colored bag mimics the white "flag" of a fleeing deer's tail -- so I stash trash bags inside my pack then, or use brightly colored bags (preferably orange) if I can get them.

    G.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Jay H's Avatar
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    Found:

    Trail: Twin Mountain-Catskills

    Date Hiked: 10-10-04

    Conditions: Nice, couple stream crossing, small rocks.

    Special Required Equipment: Etching equipment, cigarettes

    Comments: Nice hike from the Jimmy Dolan Notch, thought I'd mark my steps so I won't get lost.

    Submitted by:Ally
    Just kidding folks, wouldn't that be funny.

    Jay
    You must go and you must ramble
    Through every briar and bramble
    Till your life is in a shambles
    Maybe then you will know
    -"You Must Go" - John Hiatt

  11. #11
    Senior Member Grumpy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlpineSummit
    I'm definately a trash-picker-upper too, but I draw the line w/tissue or toilet paper. I'll usually poke it into the ground w/ a stick where at least it's outta sight. . . .
    Sissy!

    Just kidding . . .. Actually, I'm with you on the tissues and toilet paper business. Yuck!

    And I agree that the Adirondack High Peaks area for the most part is remarkably trash free, especially given the volume of traffic it receives. Same goes for my impression of Vermont. I think that generally speaks well of the people who hike in those places.

    G.

  12. #12
    Senior Member LittleBear's Avatar
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    I pick up trash, too. Usually it only amounts to a candy wrapper or two. I like to think that the wrapper just got away from the owner; I know this has happened to me on several occasions with a sudden gust of wind. Once on Garfield, I carted out the remnants of some poor backpacker's entire stock of food (I guessed about 3 to 4 day's worth). It appeared that some animal (perhaps a bear) had gotten into the food and consumed all of it, leaving only the packaging behind. Luckily I am in the habit of carrying a couple of extra trash bags with me. Felt sorry for the poor soul who had to hike out since their food was gone.

    As far as cigarette butts go, I hate seeing them on the trail and at the summit. I guess folks don't think that a butt is litter, but as far as I'm concerned, it is. I'm not a smoker, but I do know how to field strip a cigarette.
    "If you hold onto the handle, she said, it's easier to maintain the illusion of control. But it's more fun if you just let the wind carry you."

  13. #13
    Senior Member trailbiscuit's Avatar
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    I usually leave a trail of trash, so I can find my way home.

    I agree, I definitely draw the line at TP...YUCK. But, I pick up most anything else. Luckily, we always have plenty of plastic bags on hand. But, sometimes I just throw a wrapper piece or other benign item in the crago pocket of my shorts...this summer I had a plastic drink top tab in my pocket for 3 weeks, i.e. 3 washings.

    I never liked Ally.
    "You must go and you must ramble through every briar and bramble till your life is in a shambles. Maybe then you will know. You were born to blunder, born to wander, born to wonder. Even when you’re six feet under, there’s a place that you must go." - John Hiatt

    sn0m8n.blogspot.com

  14. #14
    Member nazdarovye's Avatar
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    Another trash picker-upper (and grumbler) here.

    This weekend I was on the Northville-Placid trail from Piseco to West Canada Lakes and back, and I came across a really annoying string of garbage. Every hour or two, there was a wrapper from an energy bar, shoved partly into the mudholes on the trail - some with trekking pole imprints right in the center of the wrapper. At the first wrapper I just figured it had fallen out of a pocket or something, but after a few it sure looked as if they were intentionally dropped and pushed into the mud. Also a smooshed aluminum can. Looked like someone was just dropping the leavings of their trail snacks as they moved along.

    I picked up everything but the aluminum can, which was full of mud, I was tired, it was sleeting out, and I finally said f*(& it! (Lousy excuse...but there it is!) I really wanted to slap some sense into whoever was doing this, but I fear it's a lost cause.

    Thanks to everyone who helps pick up after the thoughtless ones.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Grumpy's Avatar
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    Hey, nazdarovye!

    Could be that someone was trying to spear the wrappers with a trekking pole, in order to pick them up without bending down. Neat trick if it can be managed. Have tried this one for years, to no good avail. Trekking poles make lousy trash spears, in my experience, and are more likely to push stuff down into the soft earth than impale it for pickup. Ah well. So much for that lazy man’s trick. I am resigned to doing stoop labor in scrambling my way up the ladder to Heaven.

    G.

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