Greetings from Colorado Trail mile 175, give or take. The wind is whipping here in Twin Lakes and I can’t help but think about all of the garbage swirling around. Not that it’s not clean here – it is. But I now notice a fragment of a Snickers wrapper a half-mile away, sense a straw wrapper twisting in the breeze just downwind. It’s my new superpower.
So far I’ve packed out 2.1 pounds of litter from the Colorado Trail: enough microtrash to attract a fleet of magpies, too many crushed one-time use plastic bottles and even an abandoned sports bottle from Leadville, Colorado. There was a bike chamois, bits of Velcro and plastic and metal, forgotten notes and half-eaten energy gels, and so many Band-Aids, likely sloughed off in the neverending rain, victims of the monsoon – just like me on most days. Then: the tissue and toilet paper – the gross chunks of abdicated responsibility; sometimes half-burned in a fire pit, sometimes blooming from beside the trail.
There are accidental litterings, of course, but this is no accident – people came to these places on purpose, admired the beauty or the struggle or both, then abandoned their responsibility in plain sight.
‘Someone else will take care of it,’ they said or thought. And walked away.
For now, or in that moment, I am that Someone, despite being already loaded down with my own gear, baggies of my own wrappers and Band-Aids and tissues and toilet paper. I shoulder their responsibility and wonder how so many people can be so indifferent to think that Mother Nature is their personal trash can, so lazy to think that their trash will be somebody else’s problem.
For now, I had back on the Colorado Trail, willing to face the wind and rain and hail and relentless climbs – and yes, other peoples trash. And I’ll keep picking it up, and I’ll keep talking to my fellow pilgrims about stewardship, and I’ll keep trying to show my gratitude and respect and love for this journey and these places by leaving them better than I found them.