Trash, trash, more trash, and wag bags - really? | High Sierra Topix  

Trash, trash, more trash, and wag bags - really?

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Trash, trash, more trash, and wag bags - really?

Postby mammothbackpacker » Wed Jul 01, 2015 8:30 am

Long time lurker, made a new account just to say this. Will probably get flamed, but I have to get this off my chest. If you're on this forum, you're probably not part of the problem, but PLEASE - DO YOUR PART! SPREAD THE LEAVE NO TRACE ETHIC!

I grew up doing most of my backpacking in other parts of the world and hosted my dad, wife, and close friend on the high sierra trail last week. They're all experienced in the outdoors, and I was horrified and embarrassed by the conduct of other hikers. Here are some highlights:

- Trash left behind at every campsite - EVERY campsite. From entire Mountain House food bags to socks left in trees, to pants chewed up by marmots left in fire pits, to "micro" trash, candy wrappers, t-shirts, bits of chord, and broken pack buckles, it's everywhere.
- Wag Bags - that's bags of human poo, people - stuffed into the rocks all over Mt. Whitney. Absolutely blows my mind.
- Trash all over Trail Camp, even blown into the LAKE.
- General cluelessness of other backpackers: when there are lots of campsite, spread out, people! Who camps 7 yards away - no, seriously - when every site at Moraine Lake is available? It happened again at Crabtree.
- Left behind gear, garbage, and old food in the bear lockers, pretty much everywhere and worst on the JMT/PCT and near Whitney.
- Smell of urine all over the Whitney spur trail - apparently everyone pees in the same alcoves. Disgusting.

All of this is totally unacceptable. If you're on this forum, you're probably not part of the problem, but please - DO YOUR PART TO SPREAD THE WORD! LEAVE NO TRACE!



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Re: Trash, trash, more trash, and wag bags - really?

Postby Jimr » Wed Jul 01, 2015 8:51 am

Nothing wrong with a rant, but you're right, you're preaching to the choir :D
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Re: Trash, trash, more trash, and wag bags - really?

Postby SSSdave » Wed Jul 01, 2015 12:05 pm

And as someone that has observed backpacker behavior over decades it has only been getting worse especially during the last 15 years.

This is the result of a lack of backcountry enforcement since the Reagan years when park and forest budgets were drastically cut. Although budgets have improved somewhat since, higher priority needs have kept backcountry patrolling minimal, especially in our national forests. A reality of human nature in our current culture is that significant numbers of people will not on their own follow regulations and policies they do not agree with unless they are pressured. And as more people ignore such, that attitude spreads to others who would normally be more considerate and responsible but are easily influenced by others who are not.

Another facet of the issue is a tendency today of the majority of backpackers to ignore others that break important policies. So if someone sees a group camping way too close to a lake edge, creating a campfires above legal elevation limits, littering, leaving gear at campsites, etc they are unlikely to say anything. And of course that only encourages those easily swayed into bad habits because they see others ignoring policies and other groups not seeming to care. Thus one finds a typical tent city near a lake where several groups are sited every 100 feet or so with one or two groups set up just 20 or 30 feet from a lake. A new group arrives and notices how no one has bothered to complain to the groups too close so assume it is apparently "acceptable". They wander down the shore and see an enticing spot just 50 feet from the water and settle in despite one person in the group noting a nice spot up the slope 200 feet from the lake. The rest just keep silent.

We see the same behavior every day with urban commuters on freeway special commuter lanes where vehicles are supposed to have more than just one occupant in a vehicle. If police don't patrol those lanes, it isn't long before all manner of solo driving cheaters are using the lanes. Thus a sign of the times in a society where many have little ethical orientation. So yeah they hike out from a trailhead while drinking from a plastic bottle of soda. As soon as they finish, they wait for the first opportunity when no others are in sight along the trail and toss the empty bottle out to somewhere the trash can't be seen like in clumps of brush. Just like they do while driving in urban areas after finishing their fast food meals.
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Re: Trash, trash, more trash, and wag bags - really?

Postby maverick » Wed Jul 01, 2015 12:09 pm

Hi Mammothbackpacker,

Welcome to HST! Interesting first post. :) As you mention, and as Jim said, your preaching to the choir here at HST. Hopefully this will not be your one and only post here on HST, and you will become a contributing member. When/if you do come back, please write us up an intro: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=9329
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: Trash, trash, more trash, and wag bags - really?

Postby markskor » Wed Jul 01, 2015 1:23 pm

Nice rant - understand your pain.

Everybody knows that there is but one trail Sierra. Extending from Campo, heading north, known by another name soon enough - PCT now JMT - Whitney, eventually Tuolumne and Tahoe. Surprisingly, this season, everyone met so far is only hiking on the Trail, (all or part).

Too bad there are not some other paths to anywhere else in the Sierra - paths leading to other places, specifically not on that "one" trail. Probably are some nice places... still... pristine.

10,000+ will pass along/through one, skinny corridor this season - some are experienced but many first-timers, newbies, bucket-listers, flat-landers...one timers. Being an old timer Sierra as mentioned, what did you really expect?
BTW, The Whitney Trail/ waste management/ Trail Camp bottleneck/ WAG sanitation/ wilderness designation philosophy BS - IMHO, not our finest hour.
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Re: Trash, trash, more trash, and wag bags - really?

Postby KathyW » Wed Jul 01, 2015 1:24 pm

It is a real shame, but nothing new in the high traffic areas of the Sierra. I remember my first trip up Whitney about 15 years ago when toilet paper floated by in the lake at Trail Camp while I was pumping water.

I think the dry conditions are making matters worse because the hiking/backpacking season is longer - longer season means more traffic and more trash.

It is only on the popular trails that you have to plug your nose. Although I'm not happy about the conditions you ran into, I am happy that the bulk of the traffic stays in certain popular areas in the Sierra because that leaves the bulk of the backcountry fairly pristine.

There's always a lot of manure where the sheep are grazing, and most people are a lot like sheep they just follow along where everyone else goes.
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Re: Trash, trash, more trash, and wag bags - really?

Postby giantbrookie » Wed Jul 01, 2015 2:37 pm

KathyW wrote:It is only on the popular trails that you have to plug your nose. Although I'm not happy about the conditions you ran into, I am happy that the bulk of the traffic stays in certain popular areas in the Sierra because that leaves the bulk of the backcountry fairly pristine.
There's always a lot of manure where the sheep are grazing, and most people are a lot like sheep they just follow along where everyone else goes.


I agree with those have posted above, but I think there is a silver lining to all of this that is spoken to in Kathy's reply. If we take the wilderness as a whole I think that human abuse of it has in fact declined since the peak backpacking years in the 60's or 70's. Some of this is a product of decrease in overall backcountry visitation (so say the statistics), and some is a product of hiker education, regulations and enforcement (wilderness permit quotas, no-fire zones, no-camping zones, group size limits, etc.). Whereas humans have long had the herd mentality, I think it has been amplified many fold in the current "paint-by-numbers" on-board brain navigation era. What this means is that there are even greater concentrations of hikers on the popular trails and popular destinations along said popular trails, whereas usage away from these areas has declined. There is little question that off trail hiking has dramatically decreased, for example, with the possible exception of "pre-programmed routes" (SHR is an example) where herd mentality once again rears its head.

In a way the increasing concentrations of people along popular trails is mirrored by general human visitation to the Sierra (by car). Let's take Yosemite and Kings Canyon, for example. I can drive up on a Saturday and be the only car parked in the little turnout for that stunning world-class view from Junction View. In comparison, the number of visitors to Yosemite continues to increase and there are more people pulled to the side of the road to look at an ordinary pine tree than there are folks in the turnout at Junction View.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Re: Trash, trash, more trash, and wag bags - really?

Postby Hobbes » Wed Jul 01, 2015 2:50 pm

If you're used to relative solitude, then it must come as a real shock to be confronted by high density, 'city' like conditions. Living by the beach, you tend to get used to summer-time crowds and the resulting traffic, trash & general crush of humanity. But the impact of large crowds - or crowds exceeding a certain carrying capacity - isn't restricted to just beaches & mountains.

We were back in DC a few springs ago during the annual cherry blossom festival, and I couldn't believe how trashed the Mall was after the event. There were literally mountains of garbage collecting around long over-filled garbage cans buried far beneath the piles. But did city management hire extra maintenance crews to restore any semblance of order? Hell no, the mountains of trash were still there the next day as well as government buildings re-opened for business.

The bottom line is you can get irate, upset or otherwise annoyed, or you can take a more sanguine approach and realize that it's simply a fact of life, like death & taxes, that over-use always results in spoilage. Knowing that, you can either try and see the beauty that still remains (eg Yosemite Valley), or simply avoid places that are subject to over-use. Avoidance can be a function of either time (ie shoulder seasons), location or a combination of both.

But complaining about the impact from an army of hikers on the main Whitney trail is like complaining about grid-lock on a hot, crowded hazy day in the Valley. It's a waste of time and only serves to negatively color any joy you might have had in the first place.
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Re: Trash, trash, more trash, and wag bags - really?

Postby Jimr » Wed Jul 01, 2015 6:54 pm

I blame Cheryl Strayed :D :D :D
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Re: Trash, trash, more trash, and wag bags - really?

Postby iHartMK » Thu Jul 02, 2015 9:01 am

It's all of those LA & Orange County people. Last weekend I came across 4 tents about 3 feet from waters edge while walking around Jennie Lake. When I asked them where they were from, they said the Los Angeles area... of course. Is there no mountains down south?? Then Sunday after they left I walked through their camp, fire was still smoking and their trash was still there. SMH
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Re: Trash, trash, more trash, and wag bags - really?

Postby Jimr » Thu Jul 02, 2015 9:33 am

:moon:
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Re: Trash, trash, more trash, and wag bags - really?

Postby Kelbaker » Thu Jul 02, 2015 12:11 pm

yep, I always carry a bag of trash in my pack and add to it as the trip goes along, as the weight of food goes down the trash goes up, it alway makes me feel good to leave it cleaner then when I found it.
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