I really enjoy spending time with my kids. Sure, they can annoy me, but more often than not I love having them with me, and it seems like they enjoy my company as well.
So, today, with the MLK holiday and all of us off for the day, I decided to take advantage of the good weather and head out to one of our nearby crags: Sand Rock, Alabama.
We do quite a bit of outdoor climbing, each of us at our own level, and Sand Rock is nice in that it gives us all a range of climbs to work (and with a not very strenuous approach hike). The downside of Sand Rock is its trail condition. And while it has gotten much better over the years, there is still always plenty of trash to be found tangled in the underbush… or sometimes just sitting in the middle of the trail.
We always try to Leave No Trace and carry out more than we bring in, but today we made a point of bringing a 13-gallon kitchen trash bag with us so we could really clean trail as we went.
And clean we did. We found bottles–whole and shattered–cans, little scraps of climbing tape, tin foil, plastic bags, and so on. We didn’t quite fill our 13-gallon bag, but we definitely hauled out quite a bit.
Trail stewardship is always a good practice, but the intentional focus on clean-up today provided a way for me to shift beyond a consumer’s perspective on Sand Rock, or even a patron’s perspective, for that matter. Caring for the crag provided a way for me, and the kids, to connect that much more closely to the land we were climbing on. We took away trash, but we also left a little bit of ourselves as we tended to the trail.
On one hand, one might argue that it would have been “simpler” to just leave the trash. After all, didn’t I complicate the day by adding a clean-up “chore” to a day of recreation? I think not.
More short-sighted, certainly.
“Simplify” today meant something more like “back to basics.” And I guess there is no more simple truth than: steward the earth.
Ed Garvey twice thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail. He picked up and packed out every bit of litter he found, except at a couple “dump” sites where the AT crossed a road. He said that when press photographers took his picture, they usually asked him to hide the big black garbage bag. But he’d tell them it was the most important element of his story. When I read that, I vowed I’d adopt his practice. As you say, it’s easy … funny how easy.
It really does shift your perspective considerably to make stewardship “the most important element” of why and how we spend our time outside.
In our new locale, one of our local crags goes by the name The Dump, because that’s the purpose it served for many years. It’s certainly cleaned up a lot, but it’s hardly pristine. We carry out whatever we see, but it’s nice to have this reminder of intentionality. I think on our next outing, perhaps I will pack a 13-gallon trash bag….