Trail Trash Tails
During the first week in October of 2018, I, along with my hiking and life partner Valerie, took our Earth #24 on an astounding fall color hike to the top of Cobble Hill. The trail climbs up steeply toward a view of tree beauty above Lake Placid in the Adirondack State Park in upstate New York. The sight of the lake valley is panoramic and high above the daily world.
We decided we would clean up the trail during our ascent. We carried a garbage bag and picked up whatever we encountered that was unnatural and scheduled to take more than a season’s round to decompose. This is what we collected:
* Werther’s Original caramel candy wrapper
* Chewing gum wrapper
* Shopping bag fragment from Tops grocery supermarket
* Tiny resealable plastic bag
* Tiny plastic candy bag
* Empty plastic bag of Qik Joe ice melt: “Effective to -25 degrees Fahrenheit”
* Two empty cans of Mountain Dew
* Empty can of Shasta caffeine-free ginger ale
* Empty can of Busch Light beer
By far the mystery of the lot was indeed the Qik Joe ice melt. What was this litter-person thinking? Maybe they were up from the city last December and planned to clear all the snow from the path so they could hike up in Manhattan street shoes without slipping?
The four empty drink cans suggested the one consistent theme among our litter finds. You see, the climb to the top of Cobble Hill is extremely steep. In one spot we all, the expert hikers as well as those on a family outing, had to hang on to an infamous rope in order to shimmy up over a slippery challenging rock face. When you say: “We are doing Cobble Hill today.” Folks always say: “Oh, the rope!”
So, we found first the Busch Light can, then the two Mountain Dew cans near each other, then the Shasta caffeine free. Valerie and I both were silently thinking the same thought. Since all of the cans were dropped near the path within 200 hundred yards of the trailhead, it came to us a visual insight that these cans were the litter of what three very different hikers bolstered themselves with in order to face “the rope.”
The Busch Light guy was forty-ish, a bit on the heavy side and used to spending his fall afternoons with a cold one on the bar stool watching Giants football. The day of the Busch Light littering, he was talked into a hike by his new girlfriend who invited him to join her and he wanted to impress her. The alcohol came along as a habitual fortifier in the face of uncertainty.
The Mountan Dew teenager was comfortable strutting on the streets of Lake Placid Village while high on the caffeine of a couple Dews. On the day of his, maybe her, hike up Cobble Hill, they stayed in style and strutted to the top . . . high.
The Shasta ginger ale litterer was oldish with a modest income. (Wealthy people don’t buy off-brand soda.) They were health conscious so they opted for caffeine-free. But in a solo hike up “the rope” a bit of sugar buzz comes in handy.
The reassuring thing about our trash cleanup is that we found almost all of the litter discarded near the bottom of the trail. To us, this meant that, once our litterers reached the crest and saw the beauty of the fall-colored valley beneath them, they were filled with the energy and strength of the summit and no longer desired alcohol or caffeine or sugar to aid them to drink in the experience.