Homer Alaska - Letters

Story last updated at 4:41 PM on Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Too bad, campers leave their trace

I wrote this nonfiction piece last summer when I was car-camping up by Wasilla:

Sticky sap

bleeds from initials carved in trees.

Toilet paper

plastered to the bushes by the creek.

And a diaper.

A dirty diaper

left to fester in the weeds.

I would never expect visitors to Kachemak Bay State Park to display this type of filthy living. This past Sunday (Father's Day) I was hiking on the Alpine Ridge Trail (which turns off from the Saddle Trail in Halibut Cove), packing in my skis with some friends to get some final turns of the season. On our way up, we found two campers (who looked to be pre-teen boys) asleep with four or five scarred remnants of fire pits around them (presumably used for mosquito-repellant, considering the area we were in). The boys were packing a rifle, and later on our hike, we found discharged shells on the ground. Where were their parents?

After making those sweet slushy Father's Day turns, we headed down the trail. The boys were gone, but their trash was not. Five fire scars (one in the middle of the trail), tons of tin foil, some plastic wrappers, surveyor flagging and caps of some kind of flare were scattered in the trail.

This was easy enough to clean up. And as a dedicated teacher of Leave No Trace ethics, my crew and I did. But then, when we got to the Saddle Trail summit and junction, in the thick of Kachemak Bay's pristine wilderness, where tourists and locals alike can be immersed in one of the most beautiful forests in the world, just minutes away from Grewingk Glacier and Halibut Cove; there, in plain sight on the trail were five wads of used toilet paper.

I don't clean up other people's toilet paper.

Leave No Trace ethics are not hard and fast rules enforced by nature geeks like me. They are guidelines that ask wilderness-area visitors to consider the impacts of their behavior before impacting the land. Toilet paper will not destroy the wilderness. But it will destroy the enjoyment of anyone who sees it.

To you who would leave toilet paper, your initials, or a dirty diaper in the woods: would you like to see someone else's poopy mess on your wilderness journey?

And to you who would never consider such disrespect: I'm sorry I didn't pick up the toilet paper. I did not have hand sanitizer with me.

Libby Bushell, executive director, lead guide

of Homer Wilderness Leadership (HoWL)