Monday, September 28, 2020

Trail Detritus

(Note: This all happened on a trip in Feb 2020, before Corona. For now my trail-trash-collecting is on hiatus until all this crap settles down again.)
When I hike I move The Van's key from my pant's pocket down to one of the flap-covered thigh pockets on my cargo pants where it won't fall out even if/when I go ass-over-teakettle while tumbling down a hill. (If I'm falling down a cliff I'm not likely to need my key again but at least someone will be able to find it- - -) This leaves me with an empty left pant's pocket in which I stash a well-used and re-used, but equally empty, quart freezer-bag to deposit trash into.

It's primary purpose is to collect my own trash, but as I go along I'll pick up crap left behind by others and stick it in there too. (Including the damn tissues and wipes which need to be outlawed on trails since it's clear a high percentage of people are just completely incapable of carrying used ones back out for themselves!) Sometimes I'm tempted to just walk on by this crap left by someone else, but a sense of guilt and an uncomfortable feeling of irresponsibility seems to force me to turn back, do the right thing and add to the collection in my pocket.

During my working career I noticed that the culture of a company, even large companies, can be shaped and influenced by only a few, sometimes even just one, person.

I don't know how that culture-shaping works in public spaces, but regardless, some parks have a trashy culture while others, similar in facilities and ease or difficulty of access to large population centers, have a clean(er) culture.

Whatever the reason, Lost Maples State Nature Area is one of the cleaner parks and during my chilly meander out to the Grotto and back, a round-trip distance of just over 6 miles (From the campsite, only about 3 from the trailhead.) on a popular trail, I collected hardly anything at all in the way of other people's trash.

Just part of a candy-bar wrapper, a bit of squashed and unidentifiable paper, and a pen top.

But I also came back with some unusual items that day that don't really fall into the category of trash.

As I passed through Primitive Camp A on my way out to the Grotto in the morning I noticed a pyramid-style tent like this one set up in one of the clearings back off the trail. Not a style I find particularly useful, but we each have our likes and dislikes.

On my way back out that afternoon the site was empty and I later caught up to the young couple that had obviously occupied that camp.

Why obvious?

Because he had a bulging pack slung precariously over one shoulder, a very manly, my-dick-is-bigger-than-yours, long-handled ax dangling from his belt down to nearly his boot-top, (A pretty useless item - the ax - and the usefulness of a big dick is debatable - in a place where no collecting of firewood is allowed, nor are open fires of any kind permitted in the back-country where they were.) and with one hand was dragging a bright red wheely, you know, the kind of luggage designed for airports?, over the rocky trail making a racket that sounded like thunder from a distance (On my way to the Grotto that morning I wondered what the heck made those tracks in the trail. They were too perfectly parallel and in-sync to be two different bikes and too close together to be a tricycle) while trying to control a large and very loud and unruly dog with the other hand. While the other half of the couple was struggling along with an armful of long tent poles hugged closely to her chest, a DYI Center bucket overflowing with stuff dangling from an elbow and banging against her legs, and various bags and sacks hanging off her and the tent poles, all swaying and jerking uncomfortably with every step. (Which is probably why I was able to catch up to them.)

I have to give them credit. They were out there on the coldest night of the week, but holy cow! There's a right tool for the job guys! (I shouldn't point out other's shortcomings and mistakes because I've been there done that myself, but if only these youngsters would realize that I'm always right and always know best their lives would be so much easier!!!)

Not wanting to get tangled up with them, and especially that snarling and slathering dog, I turned back and found something else to occupy myself with for a while to give them time to get well out ahead of me.

But when I did make the rest of the journey out to the trailhead, along the way I came across a lost and lonely footy laying right in the middle of the trail. (Not my first such trail-find. For some reason speckling the trail with socks, especially near swimming holes, seems to be a popular sport.) Then later I stumbled on a bark-collar. A first for me.

At first I thought the collar was just some strap that fell out of their bucket and grabbed it up without much thought. But when I figured out what I really had in my hand I immediately dropped the damn thing and jumped back to a safe distance lest it do its shocky-thing on me!

Not wanting to just leave something like that laying around to surprise any unsuspecting animals or kids that might happen along, I snuck up on it from behind, very quietly, and gingerly removed the battery before putting that thing in my pocket! I mean big dick or not, who wants fried pubes?!

Having seen that dog in action, I'm guessing the collar just pissed it off even more so even if they could manage to get it on the dog, what's the point?

I wonder if they'll blame the missing footy on the dryer or the dog?

At any rate, they were gone by the time I made it to the trailhead so this crap all went into the trashcan. You know, the one conveniently put there for when you do the responsible thing and carry your trash out.


  1. Wisconsin parks rarely put out trash cans. The idea is that you pack out what you bring in, but the execution of the idea usually fails miserably.

    I always am surprised how many people overpack. It is a good workout, but probably not necessary to have a forty pound pack for a day hike.

    1. With our natural instincts combined with the relentless onslaught of advertising we have been conditioned to consume, consume, consume, whether we need it or not out there on the trail or at home, and in most cases we really don't need it in either place. Unfortunately we have not been conditioned very well to clean up after all of that consuming. Instead we have a "let the other guy do it" attitude.

  2. I can picture them walking out ... funny stuff

    1. I could have done without that vicious dog though.

  3. Brings back memories of long ago when I hiked Lost Maples frequently. Haven't been there since before 2002 now. Need to revist the memories.

    1. Maybe stop by on your way back down to the coast?? With the conditioning you've been doing you could make it out to the Grotto and back, or the Ponds and back, from the trailheads with no problem.

  4. At first, I wondered if I should even comment on a post where my best friend's dad is writing about the usefulness of a large appendage. Then I remembered all the times I have been hiking and encountered a group of people that are either way over outfitted (or way under - ummm, flip flops?! and decided to comment. I went to Lost Maples in March of 2018 and it was practically deserted. It was such a treat to have those trails to myself. I would love to see the leaves change but might take your advice and try a couple weeks after peak.

    Lost Maples is one of the cleanest parks I have been to in the state. Palo Duro was also pristine. To the point that when you see a piece of trash it seems like an obtrusive blemish on an otherwise perfect canvas and it's just infuriating. - Lauren

    1. Hey Lauren! It's been a while!

      I hit Lost Maples late one year, sometime in November if I remember right, (I could go back through the posts to find out for sure but I'm too lazy at the moment.) and found that though the crowds had thinned, there was still a hint of color left over.