In September 2014, I shared about my trashy run experience on Mt. Hood Ski Bowl. My mission was to pick up everything in my line of sight during my ascent and descent. And that’s just what I did—by the time I finished, my large plastic bag was overflowing with beer bottles, cans, plastic from bindings and ski poles, and miscellaneous papers.
Last month I returned to the mountain for a training run but I wasn’t prepared to pack it all out. Yesterday, I came prepared and had the same mission as nearly two years ago: Pick up all the trash I can carry off the mountain. I learned a few things from my first trashy run, particularly the importance of double bagging to prevent any bag mishaps. I should have triple-bagged yesterday.
It was a beautiful day on the mountain—the sun was out and Mt. Hood was always in view. When I started my ascent I assumed my 13-gallon bag would be sufficient; little did I know I could have used at least two bags. By the time I got to the top of the mountain, I had to make trash concessions or my bag would have burst at the seams.
Many thoughts went through my mind as I was picking up beer cans, bottles, and random pieces of metal, including was I up-to-date on my tetanus shot? I found it easier to carry the bag with my glove-free left hand while grabbing for bottles and other discarded sharp items wearing a glove with my right hand. The bag was getting heavy and I tended to switch hands without realizing it. You can probably see where this is going and why I’d be concerned.
Another ongoing thought (besides questioning why people litter) is how to prevent litter in the first place. What needs to happen to make people understand the consequence of their actions? There’s a wonderful trio currently hiking the Pacific Crest Trail picking up garbage along the way, and there’s a lot to pick up—in a 15-mile stretch they picked up more than 60 pounds of trash. Their efforts are certainly admirable, but what happens two years or five years from now? Undoubtedly they could make the same trip and there would be more trash to pick up—very similar to what I experienced on my return trip to Ski Bowl yesterday. Pick up one bottle and you may find two took its place when you return.
Certainly people know littering is wrong (or at least I hope they do) but yet do it anyways. Is it sheer laziness? Do they think someone will just pick it up for them? Or in the case of Ski Bowl, is it that the bottle will be covered by snow so it doesn’t matter? The best answer I could come up with is litterers must lack a connection to our natural world; but even now, I’m still not sure why they do it.
As I was loading the bag of trash into my car, two Mt. Hood Ski employees came over to observe. Unfortunately, neither of them were surprised by my large pile of trash. They shared litter on the mountain is a serious problem, but they don’t know what to do about it. There’s receptacles at the bottom and top of all chair lifts, as well as signs in key areas. They indicated if anyone is caught littering they’d lose their ski lift ticket.
I will continue to pick up trash on our trails and wildplaces, as I feel it’s my responsibility to do so since I run and adventure in these areas (and of course, recycle what’s recyclable). If someone spots me picking up litter, my hope is they will follow. I’ll continue to post pictures of the trash I pick up in my online gallery and encourage others to join me. I want to create a network of trail trash ambassadors.
More importantly, though, I want to reach people before they litter—I want to show them there’s another way. I want to prevent litter and not have to pick up someone’s discarded bottles, wrappers, and other items. I’ve always said my best ideas come when I’m running—it may take a few extra miles, but I’m determined to find a solution.
Want to partner with me? Brainstorm ideas? Reach out to me and let’s talk!