Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Hiking in the Pacific Northwest: Honor Your Mother

Each April Earth Day is an excellent reminder to take extra care of our wonderful planet. Have you been involved in any activities to make "Mother" Earth a better, cleaner place?

With the seemingly exponential growth of hikers, climbers, and more out enjoying our beautiful trails and mountains here in the Pacific Northwest, I'm  troubled by an increase in trash in the woods/along trails.

So for Earth Day, some practical tips for anyone who ventures into the outdoors. Here in the Northwest (and all over), our ethic is this:

Leave No Trace.

Pretty simple, huh?

That means a few basic things to do/not do. (Find a lot more on the link above, and I realize this post is mostly preaching to the choir. :) 

Don't Toss Anything as You Go.  Even Food.
It's not okay to leave those orange or banana peels or any leftover food on the ground where you had lunch. (It also adds insult to injury if the peel still bears a sticky plastic label.)

To quickly decompose, if left on the ground, food needs the natural bugs and microorganisms in the soil where it originated.  Ever seen an orange or banana tree growing in a Pacific Northwest forest? In the tropics a banana peel  decomposes in a few days. Not so this far north. An orange peel can take months or longer to decompose in a fragile alpine environment.

Not cool.
Also, birds and other forest critters evolved to consume edibles from their native habitat. Maybe they'll eat your leftover sandwich crusts, but it's not great for their health. And it's not pleasant for the hikers who sit at the same spot a few hours or days later.

Carry it Out. Everything.
Yes, that includes any toilet paper you might use (well clear of any water or stream). Bring zip-lock bags (compostable if possible), double bag, and take it with you. Last fall at a popular trailhead I saw over a half dozen different spots just beyond the locked outhouse where people had just dropped their TP and left.

If you must go in the woods, dig a shallow hole about 6 inches deep and do your business in the hole, then use a stick to cover it with soil. (Here is a great website on this topic.) And of course bag any TP and dispose of it at home or the nearest garbage bin.

Your dog?  Just like in the city, bag their doo and carry it out.

In the last couple years I've noticed blue plastic bags of dog doo along popular trails, which were left by hikers with the intent of picking it up on the way down.  Not so great for the rest of us to see a trail of plastic bags along an otherwise beautiful forest/mountain trail.  And some do get left behind.

Please, triple bag if you must, but take those bags with you as you go. (Dog owners have pushed back on this request, what say you?)

Carry a Spare Bag and Collect Litter as You Go.
In the spirit of compassion for our natural places and others around us, try bringing along a spare bag and sticking trash in it as you go. On a hike yesterday we collected orange and banana peels, a McDonald's wrapper, plastic candy wrappers, some foil, and broken sunglasses. There was more that we had to leave after running out of room.

Golden arches not so golden.
Let's do all we can to keep our outdoors as pristine as possible. Everyone and everything benefits.

Think about joining trail clean-up/maintenance parties organized by groups like the Washington Trails Association, Mazamas, or Mountaineers. What are your suggestions/favorite ways to volunteer or address these issues and more?  Jump in with a comment below. Thanks in advance for sharing.

In between blog posts, check out Pacific Northwest Seasons on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram for lots more photos and NW news. 

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons!


JoJo said...

I've never understood how people can bring the stuff in but they can't bring the wrappers and stuff out again.

jill said...

I hear you JoJo!

Laurie Ward said...

Love the concept...Honor your Mother in relation to Mother Earth, Jill. While fortunate here in the PNW that most hikers/climbers "get it" when it comes to litter, pieces still drop. Yes, we even pick up those pesky little pieces as they're a distraction while out.

Thanks for sharing your incredible writings with all of us. Laurie

Anonymous said...

WOW, what happened to the campfire girl pledge to leave your campsite cleaner than you found it. Sad that the effect of more of us is to make it worse not better. What is with these dopes - of course living as I do in the city I found some 30th something's couple walking their dog depositing their dog's poop bag in my garbage can - probably would have been less annoying if they had managed to put it in the correct can after walking down my damn driveway to reach the can. My personal impression is that dogs in the woods should be tightly controlled so that the critters aren't annoyed - but I really do love the stories where the dogs decide to take on a larger and more aggressive animal. And, please you lazy ignorant people - pick up your trash. Honestly! mary Lou

jill said...

Yea most people get it, but we saw a whole big bag with the remains of a six-pack tossed behind a log. And the TP is out of control.

Anonymous said...

Great post and lovely pictures. My husband sometimes takes a trash bag with him when he goes on walks so he can pick up trash. I always thought he was funny for doing that, but it's nice to know he isn't the only one. :)