Sunday, July 25, 2010

Left Behind

"Are you kidding?" I asked frozen in disbelief. No, she wasn't kidding. "Leave No Trace," I’d heard that somewhere before. Through a fog of incredulity I tried to imagine how the phrase might be applied to me.

“Some people even carry out their solid waste."

Shit. Solid waste? “As in, they shit in a bag and carry it out with them?" I asked.

Tara nodded.

“But this isn’t shit,” I protested, “it’s vegetal matter.”

“The point is how seriously hikers take ‘Leave No Trace.’”

Eyebrows pulled together, I considered. Luckily privies sat strategically located at every lean-to along this stretch of trail. If timed right, you'd never have to pull out a trowel before dropping trou. My mind jumped to stories of shit left behind by past expeditions up Everest literally lining the trails, frozen permanently into the landscape.

"It's not like it won't decompose," I protested staring down at the sodden artichoke petals. I’d thought bringing them had been a stroke of genius. We were going to be trapped in the wilderness for days, surviving on dehydrated beans and "organic" top ramen. Fresh cooked artichokes were supposed to be a first day treat, not a semi-permanent burden.

What was I going to do, carry them around, festering, hopefully well sealed in a zip lock? The goal was to eat our way to lighter packs, not carry compost. And yet, she was right. What if everyone left something behind?

There I stood, hands full of nibbled petals. My favorite vegetable turned instrument of ethical dilemma. Anger welled at the injustice of it all.

I made my decision. "I won't do it again."

Justifications are required in equal measure to the moral weight of the dilemma, so I added "Just this once," and "I didn't know.” It was a serious matter. Shame faced, I glanced sidelong. Only Tara and I would know. I pulled up a rock and dug a hole. Only the beetles would be the wiser, we hoped.

[Checking the statistics later I learned that there are millions of people hiking on the AT annually, must be why "Leave No Trace" is the official policy.]

1 comment:

  1. I never thought about that. I would figure burying food is okay as long as it's not wrappers. Maybe they should set up compost bins.

    I just wrote about hiking and posted it this morning.