September 4, 2012

If you can't keep from treating our forests like a garbage dump, stay the hell out!

Garbage left behind atop Hawk Mt.
First of all, I am no tree hugging preservationist with nothing better to do but file a lawsuit when anyone lifts a chainsaw in the forest. I do not claim to be an environmentalist, although I do think common sense and decency play a part in any trip into our forests. I scoff at any mantra suggesting you leave the wilds in better condition than when you left. How is that possible? If the average Joe left the forest in the same condition as when he entered it would do fine. That is not to say that forests should not be managed for multiple uses – including logging! Industry does have its place in the woods! But that is for another post.

Along a 2.6 mile stretch of trail hugging the Salmon River in the Salmon Huckleberry Wilderness, one can see some of the largest old growth trees in the state. At an elevation of around 1,600', this trail can be hiked any time of the year and is easily accessible. A paved road closely parallels the entire trail. Sunset magazine once said, "Though this nearly level trail winds along between road and river, you rarely see or hear traffic; you feel as though you're well away from civilization."

I had to chuckle when I read the part about how "you feel as though you're well away from civilization." From what I had seen, nothing was further from the truth. When I hiked the trail it was a mess, sadly, another reminder that people might have too much access to such an area.

The first souvenir I saw was a large cardboard box filled with kindling. Obviously someone was too lazy to carry it back to their car when their visit was over. Most likely they thought they were doing the next visitors a favor by leaving it for them.

Nearby was a fire pit someone had decided to make amid what was once thriving vegetation. Only problem was there were no rocks to form the pit. The fire had spread and obliterated the fragile vegetation in a 10 foot diameter.

As the trail meandered toward the river, I noticed something bright red lying in the stream. It was a gas can lodged between two river rocks. Whether it had gas in it is anyone's guess.

Like streamers left over from civilization's continuous parade through the area, used toilet paper was strewn along a 10 foot section of trail.

Back out in the river, the bed of a pickup lie rusting.

A few yards further down the trail a sign pointed to one of the giant trees rising majestically above the area. What I saw when I arrived at the monarch sickened me. Someone had actually started a fire at the base of the grand old growth. It was damaged grotesquely, but would probably live.

Near the trail's end was a sign brightly colored with the reds and purples and pinks of food containers. The trash heap stood out like a neon sign against the forest's earth tones. Although it bore no words, its statement was implicit. It screamed to me, "Keep the hell out if you can't treat treat the outdoors and others wanting to enjoy them with some respect!"

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