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Pack it in—Pack it out... Please!
The importance of being responsible for your garbage

©Outdoor Adventure Canada

Frustration! Anger! Disgust! These three emotions describe how I feel about the garbage I find all too often on wilderness canoeing trips and in the backcountry in general.

It doesn't seem to be as bad on backpacking trips maybe because the Leave-No-Trace way of doing things is more prevalent among members of the backpacking community. Still, it never ceases to amaze me. Even in places where there are strict can and bottle bans I still find these items. The lack of care is plain inconsiderate.

While cleanup events are to be applauded, it is upsetting to me that this garbage is left in the wilderness in the first place. Organizations such as Leave-No-Trace and the Algonquin Backcountry Recreationalists can make a big difference but no matter how hard they work to educate, there are still some out there who don't really care. They are fine to let others pick up their garbage and what-not.

Our family has packed out quite a bit of other people's leavings too. We've found good items like sandals, a fishing pole, life jackets and such but we've also found our share of crap. Some of this garbage was quite dangerous. For example my son, who was four at the time, found a broken juice bottle on a campsite trail. The same summer, in a different area, my friend discovered an empty peach can that had been left lying on the trail to the privy with the cut lid sticking straight up. Someone could have been seriously injured.

One of the worst sites was in a park where there are wooden privies on the wilderness campsites. I was shocked to find that the couple we had met with their beautiful baby a few hours earlier had left the privy completely full to the lid with disposable diapers. Judging from the amount of diapers the couple had been there for several days maybe even a week. These will not biodegrade and for sanitation reasons, lack of a big enough garbage bag and because we were on the first day of an eight day excursion, I couldn't pack out what had been left. Incidentally the area uses a reservation system and I reported the issue to the rangers. They had already been notified and had arranged for a clean-up but there was no recourse for the couple that left the diapers behind. I have a young baby and would never be so lazy as to leave her diapers behind for someone else to deal with.

The sheer laziness of some folks appalls me. Would it be too much to ask that if people pack something in, that they pack it back out?

Written by Laurie March
Photos courtesy of Bryan and Laurie March

masthead photo courtesy
Laurie March




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