Saturday, November 1, 2014

Vandalism, Graffiti and Garbage: A Rant

Recently, Mike and I ventured into the Utah wilderness for an escape.  It was great.  Except for the excessive garbage littering up a mountain stream and every empty campsite.  As usual, I was both irate and confused. 

The anger should need no explanation.  As an avid camper and off road enthusiast I want to enjoy every place I go to.  One of the top reasons I enjoy camping is to get away from the filth that comes along with humanity.  To be in a park and be faced with garbage or graffiti sullies the moment.  It takes away from the peace and solitude and serves as a reminder of how selfish of a species we are.

The confusion follows the anger.  There is garbage or graffiti in otherwise pristine wilderness.  So someone wanted to be here.  Someone wanted to experience this place for what it offers, whether that is camping, hiking or off road exploration.  What would possess that person or persons to then deface the same place they wanted to enjoy?   Why would they want to take away the beauty from the next person?  And really, how hard is it for you to take out what you brought in?

Garbage.  You are only what you leave behind in the world.  Therefore, you are garbage.  Carry in, Carry out.  It's not that hard. On our last trip, Mike and I conversed with a local man on an ATV.  He was out in the area specifically looking for aluminum cans.  Great! Someone who was picking up.  Then I realized how sad that statement was.  He is so sure that visitors are filthy pigs that he can come out and scrounge up cans to recycle. 

Shooting.  On several occasions, we've been nearby to other campers who decided that the woods were their own personal firing range: at least twice in Arizona, and once in Utah.  I just read the Arizona statute pertaining to firearms in state parks.  Arizona is a conceal/open carry state. We're all about second amendment rights.  That does not mean you can wantonly shoot wherever you want.  Safety, asshats. In Utah, the shooters were barely 100 yards from our campsite.  That is shockingly close when discussing flying bullets.  You aren't just disturbing fellow campers, you are disrupting all the wildlife in the area. You are leaving lead and casings lying about.  You aren't hunting, you are being a jerk. 

Vandalism.  I've entered restrooms in parks, both National and State.  And I've seen hell.  Why on earth would you poop on the floor?  Or smear your feces all over the wall?  There is something fundamentally wrong with people who do those things.

Roads.  Please stay on designated trails.  In my favorite places, I rarely see jerks creating their own roads.  But I work with BLM in southern Arizona and they are in a never-ending battle with smugglers who carve their own roads through protected land.   Tread Lightly.  There are specific reasons why you shouldn't carve new roads into the desert, to include: endangered animals or plants, and most of the time because the ground is actually alive.  There are mosses and organisms that live on the top layer of the soil.  They spring to life during a rain, but hibernate most of the time.  They also keep the soil from eroding and blowing away.  All of those deadly sandstorms that ravage I-10?  Most of those organisms have long ago been destroyed by farming and residential building and there is little to nothing keeping the top layer of soil from getting gathered up by a dust storm. 

Graffiti.  Every time I see a carved Aspen tree I die a little inside.  You marred and otherwise beautiful tree with your stupid initials, or carving.  I'm betting 90% of those idiots never return to said tree to observe them again.  (I'm also hoping that there is some tree karma at work and if you carve into a living growing tree, you will face some cosmic consequences later in life). And the 10% who do traipse through someone's campsite, complete with bored kids in tow to find the tree they carved a decade earlier.  Without an apology, mind you.  That happened to us in Utah this past summer.

On the road from Florence to Kelvin:  there is a beautiful and expansive area of boulders that, presumably, the nearby teens have designated as theirs.  There is nothing beautiful or artistic about this spray paint. It is difficult to find an unsullied, untouched surface here.
Spray painted rocks and boulders and other wanton destruction.  Last year (I believe), Boyscout Scout Masters took it upon themselves to push over a balanced rock on a popular trail in Moab.  Said rock was a marker for most hikers and riders.  They claimed they did it for the good of everyone, that the rock was a danger, but the posted YouTube video shows otherwise.  It took several healthy, strong men to dislodge the rock.  And these men are routinely entrusted with young boys, who they are supposed to be leaders and examples for.

Most recently, the National Park Service announced graffiti was found in several parks.  Spray paint.  Some stupid young woman decided that her art needed to be plastered in our nations parks.  And before you say, who cares, you should care.  Your tax dollars go towards maintaining these parks.  These parks are a national investment in our natural history.  Photography is a passion of mine.  I appreciate art in most of its forms.  There is a time and place where you can express yourself.  Spray painting a boulder in one of nature's playgrounds is less than unsatisfactory. 

There is a special ring of hell designated for these people.  I understand that by simply camping, I am impacting my favorite nature spots.  But I make sure to pack out all my garbage.  Bury my human and canine waste if applicable and to only tread on preexisting roads and trails.  I don't allow my dogs to chase wildlife, no matter how much they want to.  I don't leave food behind or feed wild animals.  I don't chop down trees for a fire.  I carry weapons for personal safety against bears, big cats and Jason. All of these things are simple to accomplish or avoid.

Enjoy the wild spaces, but leave them as if you were never there.

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