It’s a good thing there’s what’s called a “cooling off” period. I needed it yesterday. By the time I reached the summit of Mt. Hood Ski Bowl and called my dad I was nearly in tears. “How can people think it’s okay to toss water bottles, beer cans, and the like off the chair lift?” I scoffed. I was unquestionably somber.
He sympathized with me, thanked me for picking up the bottles, and told me to focus instead on my surroundings as I headed down the mountain. And I did. It was a beautiful day with unobstructed views of Mt. Hood.
But on the run down, I couldn’t stop thinking about all the trash and bottles I left behind. I picked up what I could; my hydration vest was bursting at the seams and my hands could carry only so much. When I set out on my run I didn’t think I’d see much remnants of ski seasons’ past; after all, I got much of it in September 2014 when I devoted my run to picking up everything in my path. Even last summer when I ran the same course, there wasn’t much to grab. But today was different and I didn’t come prepared with gloves or a large bag, so I’m going back next week to pick it all up.
I can only imagine what wildlife must think of us as we so carelessly toss our bottles, cans, and wrappers onto a mountain. We’re the animals. And based on what I experienced yesterday, it seems some of us have no respect for our natural world.
While the views of Mt. Hood kept me focused and emotions in check, my mind wandered to an article I recently read about opening our National Parks to corporate sponsorship. Yes, our park system is in trouble and strapped for cash, but it’s hard to believe the likes of McDonalds, Starbucks, or Budweiser is the answer. I could write an entire article about my thoughts on this area, but I’ll save it for another blog post.
If we are to keep our National and State Parks (and other wildplaces) free from corporate interests, we can’t be so cavalier when it comes to preserving them. We can’t expect other people to support them. We can’t leave our trash behind for someone else to pick up. We need to protect and support our parks and the organizations working tirelessly to preserve them. We need to be better stewards.
This was partly the inspiration for Small Change, an initiative I founded to encourage donations to organizations making a difference in the places we visit for our races and adventures. Since its inception in July 2014, nearly 40 organizations have benefited and combined have received a total of over $4,100. I typically donate to an organization prior to a race, but I couldn’t get it done before last Saturday’s Smith Rock Ascent 15-Miler.
As I was making my way down the mountain surrounded by both beauty and bottles, I knew my beneficiary for Smith Rock would be an organization dedicated to the conservation of our parks system—and I chose the Oregon State Parks Foundation. I donated $15 to this organization whose mission is to enrich the Oregon state park experience, now and for generations to come.
By the time I reached the bottom of Ski Bowl I was in much better spirits. My frustration from seeing a mountain littered with bottles and cans turned from anger to a stronger resolve to bring more awareness to Small Change and Make a Pact, Pack It Out, my initiatives created to preserve all that’s important.