Picking Up After Others

Woody OwlLet’s say you’re out hiking, reveling in nature’s beauty, as many of us are prone to do. The weather is absolutely lovely. You see a happy little brook that’s babbling about nothing. You eavesdrop on a conversation between two birds. You even get to witness a Cheetos bag in its natural environment.

While the idea of getting out and experiencing nature in a pristine and untouched state is alluring, it is also quite elusive. You often have the illusion of untouched wilderness, but that man-made trail that got you there is anything but natural. However trails are necessary, and seldom take away from the beauty of nature.

Stumbling across trash left behind by lazy and disrespectful hikers, on the other hand, can shock you right out of whatever warm and fuzzy feelings you may have been having about your natural experience.

There’s a basic rule for going outdoors. Pack out what you pack in. If you opt to bring a bag of Cheetos to much on while you’re hiking that’s up to you, but you shouldn’t let it be known to everyone else who walks that trail by leaving it half buried in a pile of leaves.

To be fair, sometimes littering on the trail is accidental, but that doesn’t make it any better. You can avoid dropping trash by securing it in a zippered pocket rather than partially stuffing it in a side pocket. Whether it’s intentional or honest mistake, it’s not OK to leave trash on the trail.

But it’s just as wrong to gaze upon that stranger’s trash, shake your head in disgust, voice your opinions about the problems of the world today, shrug, and walk away, leaving that lonely litter in hopes that the rightful owner will realize their mistake and come back for it. In a sense, that’s about as close as you can get to leaving it there yourself.

Some folks might feel like it’s not their responsibility, but it doesn’t really matter who should or shouldn’t be held responsible for picking up that trash. All that matters is that it is picked up.

If you notice some trash while you’re out and about, think about how that makes you feel. It can ruin elated feelings, or put you in a foul mood. You don’t want to pass that on to the next hiker. Just grab the trash and take it with you.

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