One of the many benefits of living in Portland is the close proximity to the mountains. I’m very lucky to have abundant wildplaces to run—and this summer I took full advantage of it and trained on the beautiful Pacific Crest Trail and on Mt. Hood Ski Bowl. Ski Bowl prides itself as being the largest nighttime ski area in the United States; however, in the summer, it’s perfect for hill training.
During my previous training runs on Ski Bowl, I couldn’t help but notice all of the trash and discarded bottles I passed while running up and down the face of the mountain; most likely remnants from many ski seasons. I always felt guilty leaving it behind, but wasn’t prepared to pick it all up. Excuse…maybe.
Seeing the trash reminded me of my friend Gina who always strives to pick up any waste she sees while running. At the finish lines of races, I often see her pulling out trash from her pockets that she picked up along the way. Her conscientious trail etiquette has always inspired me.
This past Saturday, I did hill repeats on Ski Bowl and again had to pass up the trash—my small pockets and hydration vest wouldn’t be able to hold all that I saw. However, I knew what I needed to do. I would return the next day armed with a large plastic bag and gloves. My mission: Pick up everything in my line of sight during my ascent and descent. And that’s just what I did.
I thought that I’d fill about a quarter of the 13-gallon plastic bag—by the time I finished, my bag was overflowing with trash. The contents of the bag was what you might expect: empty beer bottles and cans (and other alcoholic beverages) plastic from binders and ski boots, cigarette butts, and endless amounts of random paper and plastic—and one broken ski pole and a glove.
Halfway during my descent, I was getting a little nervous—I had two impending deadlines I was up against. A mountain bike race was starting soon and I wanted to be off the mountain before I collided with a biker who also had a mission that day. My second deadline was getting down before my bag busted at the seams (literally). The sharp edges from the cans and glass were digging little holes in the bag and I was afraid it would rip wide open, dumping everything onto the ground. Unfortunately, I had to leave some of the trash behind, as every time I stopped to pick something up and set the bag down, the holes got a little bigger. I concentrated on the larger items. For a successful end to my mission I had to get the bag down in one piece, so I cradled it like a baby, holding it ever so gently—after all, I had precious cargo to protect.
My bag of mountain trash went home with me and is sitting in my garage waiting for me to separate the waste from those items that can be recycled. The picture doesn’t well represent the amount of waste I picked up on Sunday. It’s a shame that our wildplaces can be littered with so much trash—accidental or not.
When I started this blog a couple months ago, one of my goals was to inspire others to be more sustainable in every day life and during adventures. Our wilderness belongs to all of us—it’s up to us to keep it beautiful and viable. Let’s remember the principles of Leave No Trace and take home what we pack in and pick up any trash we may see during our runs, hikes, and adventures. Use my experience as a reminder that we all play a role and can be more conscientious out there.